February 2 in History

Today is Candlemas, the day that commemorates the presentation of the infant Jesus at the Temple, 40 days after the birth of Jesus. It corresponds in date to many mid-winter celebrations including Lupercalia and Imbolc, many of which mark the middle of the season and look forward to the arrival of spring.

Above is a portion of a painting from around 1535 titled The Presentation of Christ and the Purification of the Virgin Mary in the Temple, which was painted by an anonymous follower of the Renaissance master Juan de Borgoña.

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Similar to those other midwinter celebrations, today is Groundhog Day, everywhere where there may be both groundhogs and days, but most especially in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. Did you know that there’s a movie …?

The first mention of Groundhog Day in Pennsylvania has been found in a diary entry from Morgantown, PA, that dates from 1841. The celebration in Punxsutawney dates from 1886, and the first “Groundhog Picnic” held there dates from 1887. Today is the 131st anniversary of that first Groundhog Day, or perhaps it is the first one ever and it only feels like there have been 130 already today.

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Ulysses by James Joyce was published on this date in 1922, his 40th birthday. Here is a recording of Joyce reading from his great novel:

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Bert Parks died 25 years ago today. From The Freshman:

Donald Pleasence died in 1995 on this date. Gene Kelly died on this date in 1996. Sanford Meisner died 20 years ago today. Philip Seymour Hoffman died three years ago today. Bob Elliott died one year ago today. Bob and Ray visit The Tonight Show:

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James Joyce was born on this date in 1882. Jascha Heifetz was born in 1901 on this date. James Dickey was born on this date in 1923. Elaine Stritch was born on this date in 1925. Stan Getz was born on this date in 1927. Farrah Fawcett was born 70 years ago today.

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Liz Smith is 94 today and still publishes regularly. President Valéry Giscard d’Estaing is 91 today. Judith Viorst is 86 today. Robert Mandan is 85 today. Tom Smothers is 80 today. Bo Hopkins is 79. Graham Nash is 75 today. From NPR last year:

Barry Diller is 75. Brent Spiner is 68 today. Christie Brinkley is 63. Shakira is 40 today.

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