Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Groundhog Stories

Doesn't have quite the same ring to it, does it?

It’s no secret that I’m a fan of wild rodents. But today, instead of paying homage to my squirrel friends, I have to give respect to another fat, friendly, but not quite as nimble creature. The groundhog.

February 2nd is the day we find out how much longer winter is going to last. From a groundhog that’s been alive for about a gazillion years. Punxsutawney Phil, King of the Groundhogs, Father of all Marmota, Seer of Seers, Prognosticator of Prognosticators (yeah, I didn’t make up his title), predicted today that there will be 6 more weeks of winter.

Although I went to school only an hour or so away from good old Punxy, I have never been to a Groundhog day event. But I find the whole thing fascinating, so it’s time for another E-Lo history lesson. We haven’t had one in a while.

The first time Groundhog Day was held was on February 2, 1887, on Gobbler’s Knob. Phil has been around for 119 years. He supposedly gets his longevity from drinking a secret groundhog punch every summer that gives him 7 more years of life. That’s what the Inner Circle says anyway.

So who is this Inner Circle? Well, it’s a group of men who organize the event every year, and take care of Phil. There are no women in the Inner Circle. But I guess women can’t wear tuxedos and top hats. That’s just silly. Speaking of silly, all the men in the inner circle have an important title, like Fog Spinner, or Big Flake Maker, or Burrow Master. I personally would want to be Lightening Bolt Thrower, but I have a cursed vagina, so I don’t think it can happen. It’s nice to dream though.

Anyway, this whole tradition stems, much like any American tradition, from pagan roots. The legend comes from the Roman Candlemas day, which was associated with weather and winter. If Candlemas day was a sunny day, "second winter" would begin. If it was a cloudy or rainy day, that was a sign that spring would begin early. When the Romans brought this tradition to Northern Europe, the Germans decided that on a sunny day the hedgehog would see his shadow, therefore predicting a long winter.

When the Germans came to America and settled in Pennsylvania, they carried this belief with them. Since there were a shortage of wild hedgehogs in PA, they concluded that the groundhog was the best replacement. So if the sun appeared on February 2, the groundhog would see his shadow and burrow back underground to spend 6 more weeks. Thus began the tradition of Groundhog Day.

And I’ve never even seen the movie the whole way through.

My favorite groundhog history fact: During prohibition, Phil threatened with 60 weeks of winter if he wasn’t allowed a drink. That wascally gwoundhawg.

These little buggers run wild around here. Here’s my own funny groundhog story:

Once at my old apartment, I saw something hanging from underneath my car. We had lots of stray cats there, so when I saw movement I was afraid that a cat had crawled up into my engine. As I got closer, two groundhogs emerged from the undercarriage of my car, and bolted as fast as groundhogs can. I was so afraid that there were going to be little groundhog babies living in my car.

Luckily, no groundhogs or cats were harmed that day.

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