Happy Groundhog Day, my dears.
For 125 years, Americans have enjoyed the tradition of Groundhog Day. According to folklore, on the 2nd of February, if a groundhog comes out of his den and sees his shadow, then winter will continue for 6 more weeks. If he doesn’t see his shadow, then spring shall come early.
Groundhog Day could be an amalgamation of Candlemas Day, also celebrated on the 2nd of February. Originally the day that the church would bless all the candles (Candle + Mass = Candlemas), Candlemas also has weather prognostication as part of the celebration. This English poem might say it all:
As the light grows longer
The cold grows stronger
If Candlemas be fair and bright
Winter will have another flight
If Candlemas be cloud and rain
Winter will be gone and not come again
A farmer should on Candlemas day
Have half his corn and half his hay
On Candlemas day if thorns hang a drop
You can be sure of a good pea crop
Pea crops aside, the celebration is also quite similar to the pagan festival of Imbolc, the seasonal turning point of the Celtic calendar (and which is celebrated on the 1st of February). The Groundhog Day celebration as we know it here is said to have started in the 18th century when German settlers in Pennsylvania brought a European weather foretelling tradition to the United States. (The Europeans favored a badger or a wolverine as the weather seer versus a groundhog, naturally.) There are a number of “special” groundhogs throughout the United States; Sir Walter Wally in North Carolina, Staten Island Chuck in New York, and the most infamous, Punxsutawney Phil in Pennsylvania.
Here in Brooklyn, a non-groundhog Phil wandered into the garden at 7 am, as is his want. He likes to sip dew from the plants each morning.
This Phil did not look for his shadow. He did, though, punch a rather large squirrel straight in the face. It appears the squirrel was wearing a tiny top hat and singing a lewd song. Phil is not, strictly speaking, a fan of lewd songs, especially whilst dew-sipping in the garden.
Let this be a warning for groundhogs everywhere. There is a Phil in Brooklyn who will punch you in the face should you interrupt HIS tradition. Weather prognostication be damned.