Speaking of groundhogs, February 2nd is a famous holiday where everyone awaits to see whether or not a designated groundhog in Punxsutawney, PA sees his shadow. According to folklore, if it’s cloudy when the groundhog emerges from its burrow, then Spring will come early; if it’s sunny, the groundhog will supposedly see it’s shadow and retreat back into it’s burrow signifying that Winter will continue for six more weeks. Although this holiday may not be too strange to Canadians and Americans, to the rest of the world, it’s just a groundhog’s shadow!
The Feast of Anastenaria
The Anastenaria or the feast of Saint Constantine and Saint Helena is an eight-day dancing celebration that begins on May 21st. Celebrated in Northern Greece and Southern Bulgaria, revelers celebrate with fire walking, dancing and stomping accompanied by live music. As the music gets faster, the participants “touched by Saint Constantine” claim to not feel the flames on their feet. The legend behind this ritual dates back to the Middle Ages when the Church of Saint Constantine accidentally caught fire. As the flames engulfed the church, the icons of the saint and his mother Saint Helena were heard crying inside. The brave churchgoers who rescued the icons came out unharmed and unscathed by the fire. The eight-day festivities are celebrated with all-night services and the sacrifice of a sacred bull, where every village family is given meat and sandals made from the hide.
Up-Hell-Aa is a Scottish holiday that descended from a Viking celebration depicting the rebirth of the sun. This fiery holiday is celebrated with a variety of fire festivals that start with a torch procession of hundreds of people dressed in themed costumes and end with the throwing of the fires into a Viking ship replica. This is annually held in the middle of Winter to mark the end of the Yule season.
The Day the Music Died
Every February 3rd, the Day the Music Died is celebrated to honor the famous singers who died in an airplane crash: the Big Booper, Richie Valens and Buddy Holly in 1959. These musicians were very popular in the 1950’s and are considered incredibly influential on modern music.
Hadaka Matsuri or the “naked man festival” in Japan is celebrated on the third Saturday of February during one of the coldest nights of the year. Thousands of men all around Japan strip down to loincloths (or less) to test their manhood and bravery in order to secure luck throughout the year. The rituals vary from town to town. For example, in Okayama, men purify themselves in water from the Yoshi River, run once on the Saidaji Temple and then try to catch the sacred sticks thrown by the priests to the crowd. The one who catches the sticks is promised a year of happiness.