02 February 2007


I have a "science trivia daily" calendar here at work, and today's was about groundhog day. We got to talking about it here, and P suddenly sprouted forth a poem:

Ef í heiði sólin sést
á sjálfa kyndilmessu
snjóa vænta máttu mest
maður upp frá þessu.

It's all very archaic and flowery in phrasing, but translation is approximately, "if you see the sun set on Candlemass, you can surely expect snow". So, the traditions are not all that different, since a sunny day is necessary for the groundhog to see his shadow anyway. If today's weather holds, it means we're gonna have an early summer then, since the clouds are so low they're practically around my ears.

My calendar went further to explain that the US tradition came from German immigrants and their belief that a badger would see his shadow and retreat, thinking it was a predator. Since they had no badgers in Pennsylvania, they swapped in a groundhog, a much less interesting animal.

P dug a little further and found that part of the significance of the day is that it's forty days after Christmas. According to Catholics a while back, women were considered unclean for the forty days* after childbirth. So, if Mary gave birth on the 25th, today's the first day Joseph could enjoy a bit of slap and tickle. Party time!

* and now I am wondering how this relates to another Famous Forty Days. Is there some kind of fertility issue in the story of the flood? Might as well have a flood since the wife's not touchable? I hope there aren't any extremely religious readers who are impossibly offended by this, but I do think it's a really interesting connection.


Anonymous said...

(this is offtopic) When you went to Iceland, did you keep your American name, or adopt an Icelandic one? For example if your name was Susan Smith and your father was Robert, would you be Susan Smith or Susan Robertdottir? (assuming you were unmarried). Having a new name would be interesting, and might be better if that is what their society uses. (so you wouldnt be like "Prince" or "Madonna" here in the USA)

Sarah said...

I LOVE this post! Not sure why, but it cracked me up. 40 days, huh? Interesting... I'll have to start researching that one... Not being religious myself, religion fascinates me, and this is one thing I hadn't heard before...

-Sarah :O)

Mr M said...

Joseph's first time indeed ;)

sir said...

But Jesus was born in June according to astronomers, and the xmas thing is a pagan tradition....Oh, it's all so confusing. Besides....no way was Mary a virgin, yeah right then I've got a potato growing on the tip of my nose.
Looking in the mirror there's no potato there.
But yes one ought to be respectful of the ones that are christians/religious...my apology :) if anyone got offended

Angel said...

the time period of 40 days is a re-curring theme in the Bible- not just Noah but also when Jesus went into the wilderness for 40 days- the time period of Lent (from Ash Wednesday to Easter Sunday). So really, it was seen as an important number in ancient Isreal- lots of re-curring numbers pop up in the Scriptures, another being 7.

As for Noah, according to the OT he was 600 years old when the Flood occurred and there is nothing to indicate that he was "taking time off" from relations with his wife.

The 40 days to Candlemas does come from ancient Jewish law, in terms of women being "unclean." Such laws still exist among observant Jews surrounding birth and menstration.

I guess that PhD in religion is coming in handy.... glad to hear you have settled into the new place. :)

Anonymous said...

ECS's writing about life in Iceland represents (to me) the best of what of the net has to offer, high quality material that is just as good as that of any professional writer. I'm actually hoping to one day see her posts recounted in a "My Life in Iceland" book. Having said that, there is another blog I'm addicted to by a young woman who sings to her webcam. As much as I like to read this blog, I like to listen to the other one. So I thought I would mention it. Perhaps oneday ECS will make a video blog about Iceland, if so I hope its like this one. The singers name is Ysabella Brave, you can google ysabellabrave to get her website. She has about 30 videos on youtube, her best song so far is (I think) "Lets Misbehave". One of the more intereting things is, she didn't start singing until about a year ago, when apparently she had a Christian experience and was told to "go sing". I wonder if ECS had such an experience to "go write"?

ECS said...

I'm still internetless in the new joint, so this was an exciting treat to find so much activity this morning!

Anon: I kept my name, since I am on a work visa here, and like many other foreigners, it would be awfully complicated to make all of us change our names. Plus, everyone goes by first name here, and as I wrote last year, my name fits Iceland better than the US.

Sarah: Glad to entertain. It created an interesting conversation that I figured others would like to ponder.

Mr M: Of course, how COULD I forget that part of the story!

Sir: You're not going to get all scientific and precise on us are you? As a friend here says, "never let facts get in the way of a good story".

Angel: I knew I could count on you to come out swinging with the theology! Do you have any further explanations of why 40 is such an important number?

anon: Wow, thanks for the encouragement! There was no epiphany for me actually. I hated my one writing class in college and I swore I was Not a Writer and would never touch the stuff again. Then I moved and this turned out to be the best way to let people know how life is here, and then I got kind of addicted. Now, even when I'm doing something that I have no plans to post on the blog about, I still am trying to imagine how I would write about it. It's freaky.

M said...

Hi E!

Still love your blog. Just a bit of surpluss info from the lower shelves of my mind: Candlemass was -is I guess, not being a catholic -the day the candles for the next year were inaugurated. Here in Denamrk we too have sayings about this time of the year: If it blows so hard on the day of Kyndelmisse (Candlemass) that eightteen old crones can not hold down the nineteenth, winter will soon be over. An interesting picture for mind...

:-) M
Not reading in Dutch today...