February 2, 2001

Groundhog Day 2001


It's February - the longest month - or so it feels.

February is broken up by several holidays, notably Valentine's Day; In the US, Feb.19 is President's Day (another excuse for a sale, I suppose); other holidays throughout the world in February (or any month) can be found here.

Today (still today as I write this so I'm not officially late) is Groundhog Day, the lamest but most endearing excuse for a holiday I've ever encountered.

I wrote about the Canadian Groundhog Day experience last year; happily, the links in that entry still work.

This year I found an amusing site called Stormfax, which has a chronicle of the American evolution of the celebration; I think it's meant to be an accurate account but some aspects of it are a bit of a stretch.

Apparently, the Delaware Indians first settled in the area of Pennsylvania which later became home to one of the more famous groundhogs, Punxsutawney Phil. The article claims that..

The name Punxsutawney comes from the Indian name for the location "ponksad-uteney" which means "the town of the sandflies."
The name woodchuck comes from the Indian legend of "Wojak, the groundhog" considered by them to be their ancestral grandfather.
Not to be confused with "Wojak", the Polish cop on the old Barney Miller sitcom?

More about the local hero:

The groundhog, also known as a woodchuck (Marmota monax), is a member of the squirrel family. Groundhogs in the wild eat succulent green plants, such as dandelion, clover, and grasses.

According to handler Bill Deeley, a local funeral director, Phil weighs 15 pounds and thrives on dog food and ice cream in his climate-controlled home at the Punxsutawney Library.

Dog food, ice cream, and library paste maybe..

Groundhog Day is seen to have arisen from the Candlemas tradition of German Settlers in North America, particularly in the area of Pennsylvania inhabited by the abovementioned Delaware Indians; Candlemas itself is reported to have evolved from the pagan "Imbolc". A web search on that term yielded many witching pages.

The Stormfax site also lists results from most Groundhog Days dating back to 1887; unfortunately, the predictions have only been accurate 39% of the time. That's even less than random chance.

Even more bizarre is the premise of this site, which tries to relate the timing of Groundhog Day and its antecedents to ancient Chinese astronomy; in the process bringing in the Sumerians, Babylonians, Shakespeare, and of course Nazi Germany.

I prefer to draw my own conclusion: that, given the cold, dreary nature of February in all but the southernmost parts of North America, a bit of silliness and fun is needed, along with the perhaps vain hope of an early spring.

In case anyone was wondering, it was cloudy with light snow today in Montreal. This is a good thing..

Linque Du Jour:   Stormfax Main Page

Links. Weather Links, and lots of them.
Includes space weather, Canadian weather, snow depth maps, fall foliage information, hurricane stuff, drought stuff too. And much more.
Fun.

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