Candlemas Day: Newfoundland Weather Lore

Boyd's Cove, Newfoundland

It’s just as well that we don’t have groundhogs in Newfoundland -
we don’t think much of their opinions.

Groundhogs (Marmota monax) are also known as woodchucks
and can be found in parts of Labrador

February 2nd is Groundhog Day in much of the rest of the continent - a day steeped in weather lore. According to the tradition, if the groundhog emerges from his den on February 2nd and sees his shadow, there will be six more weeks of winter weather. Put another way, if it’s sunny on February second there is more winter in store, if it’s a grey day, the worst of winter has passed.

Despite not having groundhogs on the island, and about a 0% chance of winter ending in mid March, many school kids will still mark the occasion.

Six More Weeks of Winter?
Historical averages for Gander, NL

It really doesn't matter what any groundhog says, Newfoundland's winter weather is going to stick around well beyond the six-week 'best case scenario' offered in the folklore.  Newfoundland can count on snow in April and May.  In fact, in my recollection, some our worst snowstorms can occur late in the season.

42.2cm of snowfall,
daily minimum temperature of -2.5C

10.7cm of snowfall,
daily minimum temperature of 1.9C

Historical averages, Environment Canada, 1981-2010

Newfoundland does have its own February 2nd weather lore, though.

February 2nd is Candlemas Day, the day some churches blessed their candles. As with groundhog day, Candlemas conditions are used to predict the weather for the rest of winter. 

There is a rhyme:

If Candlemas Day be clear and fine,
the worst of winter's left behind;
If Candlemas Day be rough and grum,
there's more of winter yet to come

So good weather of February 2nd? Winter’s winding down. 

Bad weather on the 2nd? More winter lies ahead. 
It’s exactly counter to the groundhog’s prognostication. We blaze our own trails in these parts and take advice from no hog.


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