Clare County Review & Marion Press

Pat’s Bits and Pieces: Groundhog day is coming – could it mean spring?

I’ve been searching through old columns from the past few months of January hoping (unsuccessfully, I’m afraid) to find some inspiration for this week.
It’s still winter out there and judging by the news this morning (Tuesday) I am glad I am in here where it is warm. The thermometer is down in the single digits today and we had an inch of snow yesterday (much more in the southern half of the state I’m afraid).
But, The (sort of) good news is January is winding down again. The month is nearly over already. It has been mostly cold – as usual, but we have had quite a few sunny days to lift our spirits.
Nearly every day brings something a little different. Although it is VERY cold outside, the sun is shining and at least it looks inviting with a new cover of fresh snow on everything (including our vehicles unfortunately). No matter though, as we are staying in and Jack is making cookies this afternoon he says. That goes a long way toward making winter bearable when the house smells like fresh baked cookies!!
February starts next Tuesday. With any luck that month will pass as quickly as this one has. Winter always seems to last so long…
I think February seems to last so much longer (even though it is the shortest month) is because it is getting closer to spring and we all hate to wait!
The calendar says spring will only be six weeks away (if the ground hog doesn’t see his shadow on Wednesday, which is Groundhog Day this year.
Unfortunately, winter in this part of the country is always “at least” six weeks away in Michigan this time of year. In fact, spring always seems to wait to appear until at least mid-April or May no matter what Punxsutawney Phil does.
If you’ve ever wondered, Groundhog Day has its roots in the ancient Christian tradition of Candlemas, when clergy would bless and distribute candles needed for winter. The candles represented how long and cold the winter would be. Germans expanded on this concept by selecting an animal—the hedgehog—as a means of predicting weather.
The internet says, “On February 2, 1887, Groundhog Day, featuring a rodent meteorologist was celebrated for the first time at Gobbler’s Knob in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. According to tradtion, if a groundhog comes out of its hole on this day and sees its shadow, it gets scared and runs back into its burrow, predicting six more weeks of winter weather; no shadow means an early spring.”
Groundhogs, or woodchucks hibernate in late fall and generally come out in February to look for a mate (not to predict the weather), before going back underground again. They emerge from hibernation for good in March.
In 1887, a newspaper editor belonging to a group of groundhog hunters from Punxsutawney called the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club declared that Phil, the Punxsutawney groundhog, was America’s only true weather-forecasting groundhog. The line of groundhogs that have since been known as Phil might be America’s most famous groundhogs, but other towns across North America now have their own weather-predicting rodents, from Birmingham Bill to Staten Island Chuck to Shubenacadie Sam in Canada.
In 1993, the movie Groundhog Day starring Bill Murray popularized the usage of “groundhog day” to mean something that is repeated over and over. Today, tens of thousands of people converge on Gobbler’s Knob in Punxsutawney (over and over) each February 2 to witness Phil’s prediction. The Punxsutawney Groundhog Club hosts a three-day celebration featuring entertainment and activities.
Not me though…I can think of a lot of “sunnier” places I would rather be when February makes an appearance again. Wouldn’t it be nice to spend the month, or at least most of it, in Florida?
We did that one year not so long ago and I think that trip spoiled winter for me forever…

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