FEBRUARY 1, 2002
The lowly groundhog, often called a woodchuck, is the only mammal to have a day named in his honor. The groundhog's day is February 2. Granted, its not a federal holiday; nobody gets off work. But still, to have a day named after you is quite a feat.
How did the groundhog come by this honor?
It stems from the ancient belief that hibernating creatures were able to predict the arrival of springtime by their emergence.
The German immigrants known as Pennsylvania Dutch brought the tradition to America in the 18th century. They had once regarded the badger as the winter-spring barometer. But the job was reassigned to the groundhog after importing their Candlemas traditions to the U.S. Candlemas commemorates the ritual purification of Mary, 40 days after the birth of Jesus.
Candlemas is one of the four "cross-quarters" of the year, occurring half way between the first day of winter and the first day of spring. Traditionally, it was believed that if Candlemas was sunny, the remaining six weeks of winter would be stormy and cold. But if it rained or snowed on Candlemas, the rest of the winter would be mild. If an animal "sees its shadow," it must be sunny, so more wintry weather is predicted:
If Candlemas be fair and bright,
Winter has another flight.
If Candlemas brings clouds and rain,
Winter will not come again.
The groundhog and badger were not the only animals that have been used to predict spring. Other Europeans used the bear or hedgehog--but in any case the honor belonged to a creature that hibernated. Its emergence symbolized the imminent arrival of spring.
Traditionally, the groundhog is supposed to awaken on February 2, Groundhog Day, and come up out of his burrow. If he sees his shadow, he will return to the burrow for six more weeks of winter. If he doesnt see his shadow, he remains outside and starts his year, because he knows that spring has arrived early.
In the U.S., the official groundhog is kept in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. Every February 2, amid a raucous celebration early in the morning, Punxsutawney Phil as the groundhog is called, is pulled from his den by his keepers, who are dressed in tuxedos. Phil then whispers his weather prediction into the ear of his keeper, who then announces it to the anxiously-awaiting crowd.
Of course, this is for show. Its a fun celebration and a great tradition. But Phil's keepers secretly decide upon the "forecast" in advance of the groundhog's arousal.
Besides, spring always arrives on or near March 21, so whether the groundhog decides to return to his den or remain above ground, the sad fact is spring will always have to wait at least six more weeks.
Copyright © 2001 by Jerry Wilson. Get permission to reprint this article.
Ballad of Punxsutawney Phil
Tune = The Ballad of Jed Clampett (The Beverly Hillbillies theme)
© 1988 by Don Halley
Come and listen
to a story 'bout a groundhog, Phil
He sleeps throughout the winter to escape the bitter chill
And then one day on February Two
He's up from the ground, and here's what he will do
Open his eyes - Look around - Prognosticate
Well the next
thing y'know, ol' Phil's a media star
Camera crews and newsmen come from near and far
To Punxsutawney town in the middle of PA
To determine whether winter will go or will it stay
Six more weeks - Maybe longer - In Minnesota
A shadow means a
longer nap for Phil and all his kin
They begin to huddle up and start a new sleep-in
But you and me we just can't sleep throughout the winter here
So have a heapin' hopin' the shadow won't appear
what radio station the bears and humans of BEARTOWN
listen to while on the internet? Why good old
Country Music, of course, on none other than: www.countrybear.com
Click here for genuine real country.
The purpose of this paper is to report area news, and nothing but the news so help me God, unless I feel like doing something else, which I can do whether you like it or not because it is my paper. You can read it or not, just as you please. But remember, if you don't read an issue you don't know what your missing.
SOMEBODY SAY BEARTOWN
Copyright 2000 Claude Dern, All Rights Reserved
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