Hromnice is known in the English-speaking countries as the Groundhog Day, religiously also as Candlemas. It is celebrated on February 2.
What is Hromnice
The Czech name Hromnice refers to a special type of candles called hromničky. It used to be a celebration of the upcoming spring and the aim of the festivities was to secure protection from fire, storm and thunder (thunder – hrom). One of the customs was the consecration of the aforementioned candles which were placed on the window during the storms to protect the household from the element which caused a lot of damage and death.
It is not without interest that the church also calls this holiday “Presentation of Jesus at the Temple”.
Traditions related to Hromnice
The importance of the special candles didn’t end with the mass. People used to bring them home and hide them behind the portraits of the saints. They were treasured for their supposed healing power and whenever a family member became ill, people would light the candles and use them for praying for that person getting better.
Hromničky played an important role for the dying. Sometimes, these candles were lit around the person on their deathbed, sometimes a candle was placed in that person’s hand or lit close to their head as it was believed it would make their dying easier. Another ritual supposed to help with this “transition” consisted in one person holding a candle and walking three times around the bed saying a special chant “Accept this light of mine as you accepted me at your christening”. Some women had their candles blessed by the priest to ensure they wouldn’t die without any light.
The praying ritual was performed also during storms when people asked God to keep their houses safe from the lightnings, sometimes also called “God’s messengers”.
Formerly, this day used to be a holiday and people weren’t allowed to work. They were especially not supposed to spin, sew or even stitch because the needle would attract the lightnings of storms and it was believe that a person wearing the garment would be struck by that lightning. In some places, the belief was that the person who did the sewing would be struck.
Some families even preserve the tradition of keeping the Christmas tree and the nativity scene until this day.
Kdo na Hromnice pracuje, toho hrom zabije.
This saying means that “Whoever works on Hromnice, will be killed by the thunder”, although today we know that would rather be the lightning. So there was no sweeping the floor and even combing one’s hair was considered a prohibited activity in some regions. The only exceptions were those born on February 2, as they had nothing to fear when it came to thunderstorms.
Moreover, people weren’t supposed to swear and only serious talk was allowed.
Weather sayings on this day
Czechs love weather sayings (sg. pranostika, pl. pranostiky) and of course there are several related to this very day! They are not always about just the weather but they always have to do with nature.
The best known one goes like this: “Na Hromnice o hodinu více.” It translates as “One more hour on Candlemas” and refers to the fact that on this day we can already enjoy one more hour of daylight since the winter equinox. Although the truth is that in the Czech Republic the daylight is actually 80 minutes longer than on December 21.
“Když na Hromnice ze střech teče, zima dlouho se vleče.” – If water runs from the roofs on Hromnice (snow has already melted), the winter will be long (meaning the cold will come back).