Thoughts and assorted philosophical musing about: Family, Friends, Fun, Hobbies, & other everyday things.
My continuing efforts to serve as a First Sergeant (Top) in the Army of God.
My latest interest is in Letterboxing.

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Thursday, January 15, 2009

Chuck this Weather

Want to chuck this weather!
Q: Who ya'gona call!
A: Snow buster Chucky!
Q: Chucky who?
A. Chucky the woodchuck.
Q: Woodchuck!!... how much snow would a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck snow?
A: About 6 weeks worth
Q: Whats with the woodchuck... err Groundhog?
A: Lets go back to the beginning.

Loren, my oldest (think Jack Benny) son is, for no particularly good reason, enthralled with Groundhog Day so I have come to gather quite a bit of information about this whimsical day on the American calender. This is the first of several "WHINs" that I am planning about groundhog day.

Astronomically, winter starts December 21st, the winter solstice, and ends with the vernal equinox on March 21st. The midpoint or what we consider midwinter is February 2. In ancient Europe there was little to do in winter except to bundle up and curse the weather. Peoples of that era would watch it closely and soon discovered that by now the days were growing noticeably longer again. This date became associated with the reawakening of the earth, new beginnings, and new life. Many customs and traditions evolved to mark this occasion of the return of light. Most of them included feasting and the lighting and display of lamps and candles along with some good juicy fertility rituals.

As Christianity spread across Europe the church was not adverse to picking up on the traditions and customs of "Pagans" and incorporating them into there own practices. Most of the converts were totally uneducated illiterate folks that needed ceremonial practices and rituals adapted from their older customs to keep them comfortable and on course in their new faith.

When the celebration of Christmas was set as 25 December it resulted in a fortunate coincidence in that under Jewish law the ritual purification of Mary mother of Christ, 40 days after his birth, occurred on the same day as these older midwinter observances. The heathen practices merged nicely with the cleansing, purification, and celebration of new life from the Judaic-Christian traditions. These blended practices were historically know by many names including Imbolc, Candlemas, and St. Brigid's Day.

Among the most popular superstitions associated with the February 2nd feast day was the belief that if that day was bright and sunny it was an indication that there would be a long and cold winter. In Europe weather patterns tend to change more slowly than they do here in the American Midwest giving some credence to this belief as a sunny day would be likely to indicate that you were experiencing a cold snap.

Some of the old ditty's associated with this midwinter feast day include:

From old England:
If Candlemas be fair and bright,
Winter has another flight.
If Candlemas brings clouds and rain,
Winter will not come again.

From Scotland:
If Candlemas Day is bright and clear,
There'll be two winters in the year.

From Germany:
For as the sun shines on Candlemas Day,
So far will the snow swirl until May.
For as the snow blows on Candlemas Day,
So far will the sun shine before May.

And from America:
If the sun shines on Groundhog Day;
Half the fuel and half the hay.

Now it stands to reason that if the day is sunny any animal out and about would cast a shadow. An old Germanic legend had it that badgers and bears came out of their caves on February 2nd to see if it was warm enough to stop hibernating.

The Pennsylvania Dutch settlers brought along the notion that bears and badgers came out on Candlemas to check the weather. Somewhere along the line, those folks (or their ancestors) merged that notion with the superstition that a sunny Candlemas indicates a cool, late spring. Bears and badgers were becoming rare in most of Pennsylvania, just as plowed fields and fence-rows were contributing to an explosion in the population of woodchucks, known locally as groundhogs. So transferring the superstition to the groundhog wasn't a huge leap. Groundhogs are a little safer to handle than bears and badgers, but I still wouldn't corner one in the wild. The famous prognosticating groundhogs like Punxsutawney Phil are raised in captivity.

I hope to bend your ear further concerning the Groundhog day movie, some old practices and traditions, and ideas for food and fun associated with that day but I'll save that for later in the month.

We are now in the midst of one of those infamous cold snaps here in the Cleveland Ohio area. I am not inclined to go out much in this weather, but after my last WHIN about enjoying sushi and sake I did develop such a craving that I drove over to a local place for a sushi O'bento consisting of assorted nigiri-zushi (finger sushi), maki-sushi (rolls), misoshiru (white soup), tempura (battered and fried shrimp and vegetables), shumai (pork dumplings), and a shredded salad. I skipped the sake though.

With our frigid temperatures Letterboxing is not in the cards for the next week or so. However, I am finishing up on another Berea letterbox, "Berea - Puffer Belly". One of Berea's historic landmarks is the Old Union Station. After it was no longer needed as a train station this building was put to several uses. Most recently it was used for the operation of a now closed quaint restaurant which was known originally as 'The Puffer Belly" and later as "The Station". This box will be associated with that historic building.

I just learned from my daughter Ellisa's blog that her nearly two year old son (his birthday will be in two weeks) has just decorated the family dog with magic markers. Does anyone have an idea how to get permanent marker off of a dogs coat??

1 comment:

Unknown said...

And yeah...the dog's still blue.