Midway between the shortest day of the year and the Spring Equinox, from ancient times those in the cold part of the earth turned their thoughts toward Spring.
And in Her infinite wisdom, the Church neatly fit in with this need to wash off the cold and grime of winter with The Feast of the Purification of Mary, which Protestants have turned into the Feast of the Presentation of Jesus.
And for the former pagans who enjoyed their February Festival of Lights - the church gave them Candlemas, a time when all the candles to be used for worship would be blessed. In some places folks would bring their candles from home to be blessed for a little extra protection at home.
And being midway between winter and spring, people naturally begin to wonder when will we have a winter thaw?
The ground hog's ability is traced back to the Germans but the Romans had some rodent to do it as well.