ON February 2nd we remember the travels of Hadrian and the Blessed Boy throughout the Eastern Empire where they encountered ancient rituals of greeting the newborn sun which endure to this day ... culminating in the ridiculous folk holiday known as Groundhog Day.
But in other cultures, trees go up on Christmas Eve and decorate living rooms for weeks AFTER Christmas.
Yet in fact, it is the evening when the God of Light becomes manifest in the world ... part of an ancient celebration that goes way back before Christianity and even before Celtic tradition.
On February 2nd, we invite you to turn out the lights in your home and light a simple beeswax candle symbolizing the end of the Northern Hemisphere's Winter Festivals (Halloween through Christmas) and the beginning of the Spring Festivals of New Birth and New Light. In fact, this is the start of the Carnival season.
And, indeed, in some years Mardi Gras occurs in early February. And even in years when Carnival starts later, this night is always considered party night by those people who design and make Mardi Gras floats and costumes ... in Rio and in New Orleans and in Venice, Carnival aficionados will by partying all night tonight.
And the following morning ... bright and early on February 2nd ... people in another obscure part of the globe will be watching for a Groundhog called Punxsutawney Phil to emerge from his burrow to catch a glimpse of the God of Light.
These seemingly disparate customs are all remnants of a religious festival so very ancient that it was archaic even in the time of Hadrian and Nations. Today it is little more than a day to pack away ornaments or a day to get drunk at a pre-Carnival party.
It is scarcely more than media hype surrounding a mammal held aloft at dawn by Pennsylvania Dutch descendants of immigrants from Central Europe.
And it is a day when garbage men throughout Europe stagger under the weight of dried-out old Christmas trees.
But if you turn out the lights and leave just one simple candle burning brightly in the darkness … you may just catch a glimpse of the God of Light. That is what Hadrian and Antonius were hoping to catch a glimpse of on this day so many centuries ago.