In Lithuania, January 25 is known as the marker of “mid-winter”. This is a tradition as old as the earliest Baltic tribes. On this day our forefathers would look to nature for signs of the approach of spring, to determine whether winter supplies would be sufficient. But today, with climate change, can any such prognoses be trusted?

Ethnologists say that January 25 signalled the end of the usually cold and dreary January, longer  daylight, and the approach of February 2, or Candlemas. In pre-Christian times, this was the day of thunder, ending the month of wolves, or January.

On this day bears were said to be startled if the sun was shining, startled by their shadow, and would quickly retreat to continue sleeping on their other side. In that case, spring would arrive sooner. If the weather was cloudy, bears would patrol their territory, looking for deer tracks, but tire quickly and go back to sleep.

Once bears became scarce in Lithuania, badgers took their place in folk lore. January 25 is the Lithuanian version of Groundhog Day, with the European badger taking the role of the groundhog. If you find a badger’s footprints in the snowy woods, spring will be late. The badger comes out of his lair to look around only when it’s cloudy. If it’s sunny, he’ll be startled by his shadow, and dive back into his nest to continue sleeping. The badger was important in folk medicine for its fat, said to heal colds and lung infections.