Saturday, February 2, 2008

6 more weeks of winter.

(the whistlepig of Gobbler's Knob has spoken)

I recently drove through Punxsutawney. It seemed to be a nice little town, nestled in the hills of Pennsylvania. Most of the city's major buildings like the Chamber of Commerce, the fire department, and the library all had appropriately themed groundhog statuary standing sentinel outside their entrances. We passed by the park in the town center where I imagine the festivities in honor of the mystical meteorologist marmot occur.

This seemingly odd tradition has a longer history than most people might expect.

Today is Candlemas, also known as Saint Brigid's Day in Ireland. Before Christianity came to Ireland, the day was called Imbolc, a festival dedicated to the goddess Brigid that celebrated the return of the sun after a long winter. People watched closely for omens, like animals peeking out from their dens, that would foretell an early spring.

Despite the various names for the day, their histories and traditions are so closely intertwined that it's difficult to see where one ends and the other begins. The human longing for the warmth of the sun is ancient and universal.

7 comments:

Lin M. said...

I got to talk to my best friend this afternoon. So winter will only be three more weeks.

Less said...

The funny thing is that the movie "Groundhog Day", was actually filmed in Woodstock, IL - a scant 15 minutes from where I live.

The wife and I considered going, but we were out late last night in Chicago and decided that sleep was what the dr. ordered...

Anonymous said...

I think they use hedgehogs in Europe instead of groundhogs.

HollyB said...

I grew up with my very own personal groundhog! My beloved Daddy was born on Feb 2. We'd make him go outside and if he saw his shadow...then we knew.
We lived in Central Texas, so we didn't care about some rodent in PA. We wanted a more local prediction.

Nicki said...

My dad just called the little bastard a "dirty rat." He admitted, however, that the rat's status would have been that of "lovely woodland creature" had the rat predicted spring was on its way. My dad doesn't like rodents.

Ian said...

Obviously, Ol' Phil has been hanging with Algore

Jeffrey Quick said...

My wife was there, with 2nd oldest (5) g-daughter. Rusty's mom was born in Punxy, so it's like a family pilgrimage, decorate the graves and all. I went once, and it was fun once. A big guy picked up Maddy and put her on his shoulders, so she saw everything...including the floodlights they forgot to turn off...so OF COURSE he saw his shadow.

Rusty had to learn to spell "Punxsutawney" before her aunt would take her to the event. She tried to teach Maddy, but she wasn't having any of that.