February 2 is Candlemas or Imbolg – halfway between the Winter Solstice and Spring Equinox. British tradition holds that good weather now portends severe winter weather later. It’s also when bears are thought to interrupt their hibernation to look outside, as well as wolves – who return to their dens if harsh winter will remain for forty days more. Scots belief has it that early in the morning of the feast of Bridget, a serpent not bothered by or bothering humans emerges from a hollow – even if snow covers the ground. In American (from German) tradition, groundhogs peek from their winter dwellings and if the sun casts shadows, return for another six weeks; if cloudy they stay out as moderate weather follows. The French La Chandeleur is celebrated with crepes, eaten after eight in the evening. If the cook flips a crepe while holding a coin in the other hand, prosperity will soon come to the family. Romans believed that at the beginning of February, Pluto brought Proserpine down into his dark kingdom deep within the earth, and her mother Ceres – aided by the light of a candle – searched for her in the night.
Reminded of this mother’s undying love for her daughter, it is Ceres – goddess of the harvest – I think of, using the last of our harvested pumpkin in pie, soup, curry, ricotta pancakes, pumpkin butter, roasted pumpkin seeds, bread, spinach phyllo pie. With such a bountiful garden, I also became very interested in gleaners, who (depending on location) can either help harvest extra produce and take it to food banks and other similar places, or connect people with resources accepting drop-off of extra produce they harvest themselves. It’s an ancient idea, dating back to biblical times and perhaps before, and is a great way to forge new bonds, prevent food waste, and share our wealth.
In the SF Bay Area, see sites like Village Harvest; Slow Harvest; and Crop Mobster, which focuses on feeding the hungry and supporting a community of local farmers, and lists stores and restaurants directly involved with this process.