Day of Shadow

By the time you read this, the news is already out. As we are not one of the three P’s of importance: Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, or Phil, combined with our northern Michigan locale where snow falls when it pleases and winter lasts as long as it well likes–today doesn’t really seem like a “holiday.” Why do we care what a groundhog “predicts” when we know winter will probably last more than six weeks beyond today?

Punxsutawney has been celebrating Groundhog Day since 1887. Everybody has their thing. Over one hundred and twenty five years is quite impressive. So how do you keep a seemingly meaningless festival and holiday alive for so long? There are three components: 1.) a mascot, aka Phil the groundhog who has a nice gig working one day (not even a whole day) a year with people fawning over him, 2.) cabin fever, people cooped up inside for almost two months, getting stir crazy are easier to coax out of their norms, 3.) campfires & beer, there is something magical about a campfire in winter plus if you put one at a destination point people are more likely to keep on trekking with the promise of warmth…beer speaks for itself. At the festival in Punxsutawney, PA “campfires and beer” translates to an all night festival culminating in fireworks and Phil’s weather prediction (and hopefully s’mores since there is a campfire).

Groundhog day actually began many moons ago in a land now known as Germany (but at the time had no such name). It also began with a badger, not a groundhog. People then were a little more in-tune with nature and believed the badger had the power to predict the coming of spring and signaled when to plant their gardens. When Germans immigrated to the U.S. they brought this tradition with them, but substituted the groundhog due to the lack of badgers in PA. If they had made it to Wisconsin maybe we would celebrate Badger Day…

Now one story of Groundhog Day claims “By the time the first German immigrants settled in Pennsylvania they probably understood that [the badger had the power to predict the coming spring] was not true but the tradition continued. Who’s to say it’s not, sure Groundhog Day is a bit overdone and animals can’t speak English so we really don’t know what they are trying to tell us. However, as the plants and animals around us are much wiser, or more sensitive, to temperature triggers, it is possible that the badger didn’t necessarily predict spring but gave people a clue about coming changes in the weather.

What animal signs help you plan your outdoor activities? 

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