CAROLYN'S COMPOSITIONS

January 29, 2010

Groundhogs and Punxsutawney Phil


CAROLYN’S COMPOSITIONS

GROUNDHOGS AND PUNXSUTAWNEY PHIL    

     Don’t be surprised when the neighborhood groundhogs (doesn’t every neighborhood have one, two, three or four?)—thought long gone in the late fall, their burrows far too close to the house, backfilled—suddenly awake, emerge and begin foraging for fuel.

     Yes, all the signs are here—it will be an early spring.#

     However, the official word on whether it will be an early spring will not be made by the observations of Colin McNickle, journalist, but by Punxsutawney Phil. On Groundhog Day.

(To view illustration click on:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/beaneryonlineliterarymagazine/2493962362/ )

     The sixth century. That’s how far back the roots of the Groundhog Day celebration extend.

     Groundhog Day is associated with Christianity’s Candlemas Day, the day that candles used throughout the year are blessed. It is the mid-point of winter, the mid-point between the Winter Solstice and the Spring Equinox.

     Groundhog Day as a modern event was inspired by an old Scottish couplet:

If Candlemas Day is bright and clear

There’ll be two winters in the year.**

      Later, the Germans started trying to predict how much more winter they could expect based on the hibernation patterns of bears in February. In the 1700s, when the Germans settled in the United States, they switched from bears to groundhogs, for some unknown reason* After all, groundhogs have no interest in how long winter lasts, nor are they any interest in their shadows. Basically, they come out of hibernation for food (by February, hibernating groundhogs have lost up to half their body weight) and sex.  **

     A clue might be found in the Delaware Indian heritage. In 1723 they settled in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, halfway between the Allegheny and Susquehanna Rivers, and ninety miles north of Pittsburgh.

     According to the Delaware Indian original creation beliefs, their forebears began life as animals in “Mother Earth” and emerged centuries later to hunt and live as men. The Delawares considered groundhogs honorable ancestors.*** 

     The earliest American reference to Groundhog Day can be found at the Pennsylvania Dutch Folklore Center at Franklin and Marshall College:

February 4, 1841 – from Morgantown, Berks County (Pennsylvania) storekeeper James Morris’ diary…“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 is to be moderate.”***

     Woodchuck and groundhog are common terms for the same animal.**  The name woodchuck comes from the Indian legend of “Wojak, the groundhog” considered by them to be their ancestral grandfather.*** This rodent, Marmota monax, a member of the squirrel family, is a.k.a. a “whistle-pigs,” because, when they are nervous they emit a high-pitched squeal.**

     The groundhog, with all the names it has (woodchuck, Wojak, Marmota monax, squirrel, whistle-pig, rodent), could have many nick-names. I invite you to provide one, typing it into the comment box following the ADDITIONAL READING list.

     But for now, I wish you a satisfying Groundhog Day. If you are a winter sports nut, and desire more winter, hope that Punxsutawney Phil sees his shadow and provides you with more fun time. But for those persons who yearn for spring, hope for a cloudy day so that Punxsutawney Phil will not see his shadow, predicting an early spring.

     Either way, remember: Punxsutawney Phil has been accurate in his predictions only 30% of the time.

DID YOU MAKE A COMMENT?

SOURCES:

#Peeking spring. Saturday Essay by Colin McNickle. Tribune-Review,  Greensburg PA. Jan. 23, 2010. A7

*http://cimss.ssec.wisc.edu/wxwise/class/hogday.html

**http://www.cbc.ca/news/background/groundhogday/

***http://www.stormfax.com/ghogday.htm

~~~~~~ 

RECEIVE E-MAIL NOTIFICATION

OF NEW POSTS ON CAROLYN’S COMPOSITIONS

Subscribe today!

(to subscribe see upper right hand post on this site)

~~~~~~~~~~~~

ADDITIONAL READING:

PUNXSUTAWNEY PHIL, WEATHER PROPHET EXTRAORDINARY

FEBRUARY DAYS TO CELEBRATE

THE AMAZING BEAVER

Battling squirrels at bird feeders I: to fight or join them

Battling squirrels at bird feeders II: to fight or join them

Battling Squirrels at Bird Feeders III: Types of bird feeders

BEAR CARNIVAL IN CONNELLSVILLE, PA.

BEAR CONFRONTATIONS: SAFETY PRECAUTIONS

BEAR STORIES ACROSS THE NATION

About these ads

1 Comment »

  1. Very interesting to get the historical perspective on something that we jsut take forgranted as happening February 2nd; these days just an excuse for a large party.

    Comment by Will Patterson — February 3, 2010 @ 12:30 pm | Reply


RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

What is your opinion?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

The Rubric Theme. Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 286 other followers

%d bloggers like this: