Sunday, January 31, 2010

A holiday Dedicated to our Favorite Fuzzy Friend

When I was a little kid we used to celebrate Groundhog Day in elementary school. I really do mean little, since most of my memories were when I lived in California, which is pre 7 years old. I remember one year we made a cardboard cut out of our favorite weather animal, and stuck him on a stake and in a bucket of sand, to observe whether this cut out produced a shadow.

Two things related to this memory: 1. It is really strange that the only memory I have is this far back, and nothing post move. 2. Why did we worry about winter in CA? It is pretty nice there most of the time, so I don’t think a shadow really means winter weather for any longer amount of time.

But in all honestly, seeing that Tuesday marks Groundhog Day made me smile a little. This is one of those holidays that really doesn’t mean much in the grand scope of things. And ultimately, whether the little animal sees a shadow or not, I highly doubt it will determine what the weather will be like. In fact, it usually snows well into April here in Colorado, so I really don’t think it qualifies here at all. Nonetheless, this holiday actually has a pretty old tradition, and is somewhat worth noting for this week.

So, what is the history of Groundhog Day? Another old European tradition is Cadlemas day, where a sunny day signified six more weeks of winter. A cute quote I fond on this topic was "If Candlemas Day is bright and clear, there'll be two winters in the year."

According to the History Channel website, this holiday was adapted from a European Holiday of the same sort, however instead of a groundhog Europeans would use hedgehogs. The use of hedgehogs was apparently a German tradition, and German immigrants brought the tradition to America.

I have also fund that Groundhog Day is a holiday that is only celebrated in the U.S. and Canada. For those who don’t know, if it is sunny, the Groundhog sees its shadow and gets scared and runs back into his hole, predicting six more weeks of winter. But if it is cloudy, the groundhog does not see his shadow, predicting spring coming soon. The groundhog behaves accordingly, going back into his hole if winter is still here, or staying above ground if it will be spring soon. The first official Groundhog Day was celebrated February 2, 1886 in the U.S., actually Punxstawney, Pennsylvania to be exact. And I do believe it is still celebrated today.

Now, as an adult thinking on this tradition, I have to wonder why if it is sunny this weather signifies that winter will last six weeks. I also wonder why it is six weeks and not four weeks. Oh the silly traditions we celebrate. Regardless of what the Groundhog says, I guarantee it will still be winter in Colorado up until April because the weather here likes to screw us all over. Whatever, I like the snow, so six more weeks of winter really doesn’t bother me all that much. Happy Groundhog Day!

Addition on 2/2/10: This morning Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow, meaning we will have six more weeks of winter. This has been the third year in a row our friend has been frightened by his shadow predicting six more weeks of winter for us. Just saw on the TV that it is snowing lightly in PA where Phil is located. Smart little critter, I'd want to get back inside too! Happy Day everyone!

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