Posted Online: Jan. 30, 2013, 1:27 pm

Celebrate winter half gone

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By Frank Mullen III

So far, global warming has been a major disappointment. I expected the end of the world to be preceded by tropical breezes and maybe a waiter serving those colorful drinks with little umbrellas in them. Instead, what I got was another winter in Illinois.

The good news is that winter is almost half over; the season's official midpoint falls during the first few days of February. If you're like me -- energetic, optimistic and fun to be with except during winter, when you're sluggish, mean-spirited and as much fun as a plastic milk jug full of used engine oil -- this is cause for celebration.

Unfortunately, our predominant way of observing the halfway mark of winter, Groundhog Day, does nothing for me. I always forget how it works. If the groundhog sees his shadow, we have six more weeks of something; if he doesn't, it's six weeks of something else. The whole thing is silly and pointless. A groundhog has as much business forecasting weather as a meteorologist has digging holes and eating grub worms.

The problem with winter is the darkness, both of long nights and low spirits. Our ancestors knew how to fight this without the help of groundhogs. On Feb. 2nd they celebrated Candlemas, an evening of torchlight processions, bonfires and burning tapers.

This is a tradition worth bringing back. If it sounds too much like fun for you, the Roman Catholic Church, at the same time, celebrates The Feast of the Presentation of the Lord. Unfortunately, this makes me think of a PowerPoint lecture during a church dinner. ("As you can clearly see, the Father and Son are one and the same, yet distinct, whereas the Holy Spirit flows from the one but not the other, yet from both, except on alternate Tuesdays in even-numbered years. Anybody want seconds on the chicken before we move on to the Resurrection?")

Meaning no disrespect, this does not sound like the solution to the cold, dark problems of February. When my knees are knocking together like the cylinders in a 1978 Pontiac and I'm so depressed that the thought of spending a weekend in Toledo actually cheers me up, the last thing I want is Roman Catholic dogma.

For the more daring, there's a lesser-known religious event in the beginning of February that also involves bonfires and candles, Imbolc, celebrated by NeoDruids, NeoPagans and, for all I know, Neosporin Lip Balm. Unfortunately, "Imbolc" sounds a little too much like "imbecile" for me to take it seriously.

All I want is a way to celebrate the fact that we've reached the middle of another Midwestern winter. Consider that moment when you're having your teeth cleaned and the dental hygienist stops jabbing knives in your upper gums and starts sticking them in your lower gums: Sure, it's still the worst experience imaginable this side of dinner with Donald Trump, but at least it's half over.

I say, let's bring back Candlemas. On the night of Feb. 2, light the candles, put on your long johns and light a fire in your back yard. We're on our way to victory, so start up the halftime show.

(Note: We recently survived the annual war over the "true" meaning of Christmas. We are not getting into this again. Let's just agree that some consider Feb. 2nd a holy day, and others just see it as a fun way to chase the blues away without Schedule I drugs. The author will not respond to complaints that he's trying to take the candle out of Candlemas.)
Frank Mullen III of Aledo is a former Navy band leader.