Tuesday, February 3, 2015


           Well, once again, it’s Groundhog Day and the prognosticating rodents have cast their die. Did you know that there are no less than 31, yes, I said 31, groundhogs in North America that are called upon to predict how long the winter will last. This year’s score: 16 say there’ll be 6 more weeks of winter; 15 call for an early spring and 1 is disputed.
Disputed?? Hmmm? Apparently, Jimmy the Groundhog from Sun Prairie, Wisconsin, bit the mayor and nobody really knows what that means except maybe the poor thing just wanted to stay in bed, or something. And maybe the mayor should be looking into a tetanus or rabies shot. Just sayin’.
            According to folklore, if it’s cloudy when a groundhog emerges from its burrow on the 2nd of February then spring will come early; if it’s sunny, the groundhog will supposedly see its shadow and retreat back into its burrow and winter weather will persist for six more weeks.
            Most of the groundhogs hail from the United States with Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania’s, Punxsutawney Phil being the most famous groundhog; mainly because of the 1993 movie “Groundhog Day” where Bill Murray’s character is a news anchor covering Groundhog Day from Punxsutawney, PA. That movie had Groundhog day repeating over and over and over and over giving a second meaning to the term “Groundhog Day” but that’s a different subject to be covered at a different time.
            The two most famous Canadian groundhogs are Wiarton Willie, of Wiarton, Ontario and Shubenacadie Sam who hails from Shubenacadie Nova Scotia. Balzac, Alberta has a Balzac Billie, (be still my tongue), and Manitoba Merv or Winnipeg Willow, (pick one), representing the city of Winnipeg. The good news is that only Shubenacadie Sam predicts a longer winter from the Canadian Groundhogs listed above.
            You’ll notice that there isn’t a Saskatchewan representative among the Groundhogs listed and that’s because Saskatchewan Groundhogs know that it’s still too damn cold to come out looking for one’s own shadow, for crying out loud, and it also knows that only six more weeks of winter is an early spring around here! Jeez, six more weeks takes us to March 15th which, to me, would be a lovely time for winter to end.
            I got to wondering, though, who’s the guy…or guys and gals…who figured this whole shadow finding thing out anyway? Who tracked it? Did all of the other folklore weather predicting tricks stop working? You know… pig spleens and such or was the guy playing a joke on the rest of the town and it just caught on? Who knows?
            What I did find was that in the United States, the celebration of Candelmas, (a celebration of Jesus’ Presentation at the Temple), coincides with Groundhog Day and a long-ago diary entry implies that Groundhog Day may have come from a German-American Candlemas tradition. James Morris, a shopkeeper from Morgantown, Pennsylvania, states in his diary from February 4th, 1841 that, “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 nap, but if the day be cloudy he remains out as the weather will be moderate.”
            Well, there you have it. Mystery solved. Kinda.
            Apparently the Scots had similar thoughts as there is an old Scottish poem that states:
            “If Candle-mas Day be fair and bright, winter has another fight. If Candlemas Day brings clouds and rain, Winter will not come again.”

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