Groundhog Day (and an even lesser known holiday)
You probably know that last Saturday was Groundhog Day. Not exactly one of the big ten holidays, but still, there was a bit of hoorah around Punxsutawney Phil who did NOT see his shadow which means an early spring! Of course, French Creek Freddie, a resident of the West Virginia Wildlife Center located not far from our family farm DID see his shadow. So I guess that means six more weeks of winter back at the family farm. Sigh!
Saturday was also Candlemas, a Christian holiday celebrating the day Jesus was presented at the Temple after Mary’s 40-day time of purification. Simeon held Jesus in his arms and called him, “The Light of the World.” Hence, Candlemas. It was tradition to take candles to the church to be blessed for use throughout the year.
Of course, we can’t take a Christian holiday and not fiddle with it. So some pagan traditions slipped in, including a superstition that if the sun came out on Candlemas, thought of as winter’s halfway mark, it meant another six weeks of winter. Conversely, an overcast day predicted an early spring.
An Old English saying goes like this:
If Candlemas be fair and bright,
Winter has another flight.
If Candlemas brings clouds and rain,
Winter will not come again.
So how did the groundhog get tied into that? Well, there’s this entry from Berks County Pennsylvania storekeeper James Morris’ diary dated 2/4/1841:
“Last Tuesday, the 2nd, was Candlemas day, the day on which, according to the Germans, the Groundhog peeps out of his winter quarters and if he sees his shadow he pops back for another six weeks of nap, but if the day be cloudy he remains out, as the weather is to be moderate.”
Freddie has been checking for his shadow since 1978 (presumably several Freddies). And he’s not the only one. Here’s a list of other groundhogs around the nation:
Punxsutawney Phil: Pennsylvania
- Buckeye Chuck: Ohio’s official groundhog
- Staten Island Chuck: The Staten Island zoo
- Smith Lake Jake: Birmingham, AL
- General Beauregard Lee: Stone Mountain, Ga.
- Octorara Orphie: Lancaster, Pa.’s
- Dunkirk Dave: Dunkirk, NY
- Woodstock Willie: Woodstock, IL
- Malverne Mel: Malverne, NY
- Jimmy The Groundhog: Sun Praire, WI
- Stormy Marmot: Aurura, CO
I don’t know about all these predications, but I do know that our weather is supposed to be in the 60s the next few days and I’m glad of it!