Just because it is on the calendar does that really make it a holiday, or is it on the calendar because it’s a holiday? If it’s a holiday why doesn’t anyone get holiday pay for it, if it’s not a holiday then why is it on the calendar? Do you get the feeling like I do that I could go around and around and get nowhere really fast?
In the seventeen hundreds when German settlers came to the new world, they brought with them a tradition known as Candlemans day, the origin of which comes from an early pagan celebration of Imbolic. The celebration came half way between the winter solstice and the spring equinox. It was believed that if the weather was fair on that day the second half of winter would be stormy and cold. On Candlemans Day in Europe, early Christians would place candles in each window that had been blessed by their clergy. The weather however, remained important and if the sun came out on the second day of February, halfway between the winter solstice and the spring equinox it meant that there would be six more weeks of winter weather.
If the sun made an appearance on Candlemans Day, an animal would cast a shadow, thus predicting six more weeks of winter. In Europe, the Germans watched a badger for the shadow. In Pennsylvania, the groundhog, upon waking from mid-Winter hibernation, was selected as the replacement.
The ground hog didn’t enter the tradition until around mid eighteen hundred and the earliest American reference to a Groundhog Day is believed to be that of a storekeeper that lived in Morgantown, Berks County, Pennsylvania.
“Last Tuesday, the second, was Candlemans 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 in for another six weeks nap, but if the day be cloudy he remains out, as the weather is to be moderate.” From the diary of James Morris February 4 1841: Pennsylvania Dutch Folklore Center at Franklin and Marshall College.
What is it with the animal thing what they couldn’t walk outside and see if they cast a shadow? Were they supposed to know something that as humans we couldn’t figure out? Go figure. If you can believe that some schmuck sat there year after year marking down the weather and noticing that he was wrong but an animal was right at predicting how many more weeks until spring, then I guess anything is possible. Maybe it has more to do with the pagans than those that would get their candles blessed by their clergy.
Exactly why the Ground hogs of Punxsutawney gained so much importance in the entire country is any ones guess. Perhaps, it was from the Delaware Indians that used the area of Punxsutawney as a campsite as it is halfway between the Susquehanna and Allegany rivers. The Delaware believed that groundhogs are honorable ancestors, according to their creation belief; their forbearers began life as animals in Mother Earth and emerged later to hunt and live as men.
The name Punxsutawney comes from ‘ponksad-uteney’ which means ‘the town of the sand flies,’ now there is a name worthy of an overhaul. The name woodchuck comes from the Indian legend of their ancestral grandfather “Wojak, the groundhog.”
I had a math teacher in high school who you would swear hated all holidays and never celebrated anything, that is until today, well not today exactly but just this particular day, Ground Hog Day. Now this math teacher really cared about teaching he was darn good teacher… unfortunately he couldn’t pound algebra in my head long enough for it to stick. He was one of those teachers that you want teaching your kids. His only draw back was, well, from a student standpoint anyway, was this hard edge of holidays. I can’t remember if he hated winter, loved spring, or was it that with the coming of spring it wouldn’t be too much longer that he would have to put up with those of us that just didn‘t get it.
How many times have you asked yourself, if he sees’ his shadow it’s how many weeks… what? Now I know you all know that it’s just some old wives tale, but what I really want to know is why is it just in this one particular town in Pennsylvania and this one particular ground hog? You don’t suppose there is a school for ground hogs where they teach things like, tunnel making, how to build a safe home, what you need eat to survive the winter, things you need to know about winter and how to predict spring? Just the basics of course everything else would be taught to them at home by their parents you know things like how to forage for food, what you can eat, sex that is unless of course they happen to live near or in a liberal school district. Then of course, they would be taught everything except the Christian religion. Sorry, just another one of those ACLU things.
What makes this one any better at predicting the weather than any other ground hog on the face of the earth? Are you tired of me asking all these questions at the beginning? Do think I lay awake at night just thinking of what it is I am going to ask you next? Don’t you think I have better things to do than to sit here at night toss, turn, and think up these questions? Okay, maybe I do stay up nights and think of these things and maybe, just maybe, I don’t have anything better to do but that’s beside the point and what makes you think I don’t have a real life… oh yeah… never mind.
“Ed, you don‘t think that junior is quite up to being the first one out the door this year do you?”
“What’s that mother?”
“I was asking your father if he thought that you should be the first to go out of the house this year,” she told her son, “you know how important it is to the world.”
“Awe mom,” junior replied, “how many times has he done it, and how many of those times has he been wrong. I gotta start sometime.”
“I don’t think you understand the importance of what we ground hogs do for humanity.”
“Sure I do dad, it’s just that, well, you know yourself that sometimes it’s wrong.”
“I am never wrong.”
Junior shook his head and rolled his eyes toward his mother who only smiled.
Junior’s grades were good in everything including all of the important areas like burrow building and how to keep intruders out of the family area.
“Your father knows what’s best I suppose,” his mother told him.
“It’s just that there are times he is not right when it comes to winter and he thinks that if I go out and am right he won’t be as important and no one will want him anymore or something like that.”
“Junior your father is nothing like that.”
“Don’t you remember the stories about our ancestors and how they would get replaced?”
“Which ones are you thinking about the ones where their fathers got too old or the ones where the fathers ended up on some humans’ dinner table?”
“Martha” Ed chimed in to stop his wife from talking about that subject.
“Oh, I wasn’t really going to answer that way, I was only kidding, how could you even think I was going to say that?”
“It’s your lazy Cousin Phil that gets all the credit anyway,” Ed gripped, “I mean what does he know about the weather over the winter. All he does is lay around in that place up there with the humans eating and sleeping.”
“Now there’s a way to live,” Junior chimed in, “no worries, no one shooting at you no animal trying to run you down. I bet he doesn’t even have to worry about crossing the road.”
“He doesn’t even have to worry about anyone nagging him about letting his son take over his job.”
“He doesn’t have any children Ed, you know that.”
“He doesn’t have a wife either,” Ed continued, “something maybe I should have thought of years ago.”
Martha stood from her chair set her knitting down and walked out of the living room.
“Way to go Dad, you sure know how to get mom to leave.”
Ed shook his head and took up his pipe, stuffed it into his mouth and returned to his paper.
“Why don’t you follow junior out so that you can correct him when it comes time to tell Phil.”
“I was thinking I would let your cousin be on his own this year.”
Martha turned from washing the dishes and stared at her husband half knowing that he wouldn’t and half thinking that it was a possibility.
“I swear Ed if you leave him hanging out there this year like you did two years a go, I’ll… I’ll leave this den and never come back.”
“What was your grade this year in foraging Junior?” asking his son trying not to answer his wife.
“I got a B minus.”
“What kind of grade is that?” Ed huffed. “Haven’t I taught you how to find all the good stuff in the valley?”
“Yeah, but Ms. Blander says that knocking over trash cans isn’t really foraging.”
“What’s that, doesn’t she know that you can find some really good things there?”
“That’s what I told her, but she says it’s almost as if you’re begging for food. But I told her that if you’re hungry what’s the difference.”
“What did she say to that?”
“That it was still cheating, I just told her what you always say pop you just never know until you got a family of your own to feed.”
“Then I guess I am going to have to do something about that.”
For the rest of the evening Ed and Martha debated over the reasons to let Junior be the first one out of the den this year. Meanwhile junior slipped away to his room to… well, if you must know he went to practice.
“Ladies and Gentlemen I give you the one the only, seer of seers, sage of sages, prognosticator of prognosticators and weather profit extraordinary Punxsutawney Junior.” He said standing in front of his mirror bowing and then raising his arms. “Thank you, I am so happy to stand here before you all and let you know that I do not see my shadow, so everyone enjoy your day and the early coming of spring.”
“I have got to something about that boy,” Ed whispered as he passed by his sons’ bedroom. “I have got to give in to his mother or at least let the boy go out on a date once in a while, something”
“I know dear, but do you think you can, you have chased off every girl he’s ever brought home with him.”
Okay so maybe just maybe that really isn’t how it really is but it was kind of cute right? Sorry I tried.
So to you my friends and family and family of friends and friends of… where was I, oh yeah.
So to you my friends and family and family of friends worry not what the weather is on this day for spring will come whether Ol’ Punxsey sees his shadow or not. If the winter is longer it just gives you more reasons not to start that spring-cleaning and if it is early, it still gives you a reason not to start it. How you ask? Easy… long winter: Oh, Honey its too cold to be out there washing windows; early spring: gee, I just can’t believe it’s spring already if I start my cleaning now I just know its going to snow again. So sit back grab yer glass, grab yer honey and put another log on the fire snuggle up and say ehh we’ll get to it some time. Here’s hoping that winter, be it long or short ends when you most need it.