Monday, February 2, 2009

The mystey of February 2nd

Okay, you know what today is. The day otherwise sane people gather in great numbers to watch a squirrelly rodent emerge from his hole in the ground. Their interest is centered around whether there will be six more weeks of winter or an early spring.

The mystery is why the news media will make such a fuss over this rather ingenuous ceremony. Hollywood even made a movie a few years back titled Groundhog Day. Do a Google search and you'll come up with 2,340,000 mentions in .06 seconds. One of the more interesting ones is on Examiner.com, where an astrology correspondent says "As Groundhog Day approaches, Mercury predicts three more weeks of chasing our tails trying to catch up with our shadows."

The biggest fuss, of course, takes place in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania where a groundhog named Phil has been known to attract up to 40,000 people. I trust the crowd will be a bit smaller today as many of them will be out looking for work. I wonder if Congress has provided a bailout for groundhog keepers in its $800-plus billion boondoggle?

Getting back to the murder mystery angle, what if some nefarious malcontent should take a potshot at Phil? Since this has pretty much become a national holiday, would that make it a Federal crime? It could be a terrorist act, you know.

To get into the historical mystery category, I delved back into the day's origins. It seems a bunch of German immigrants brought the practice to Pennsylvania. Some intrepid historian found a diary entry dated February 4, 1841 with this beguiling note:

"Last Tuesday, the 2nd, was Candlemas day, the day on which, according to the Germans, the Groundhog peeps out of his winter quarters and if he sees his shadow he pops back for another six weeks nap, but if the day be cloudy he remains out, as the weather is to be moderate."

That takes us back to Candlemas Day, a Catholic observance also known as Feast of the Presentation of Christ in the Temple, observed on February 2 and involving a blessing of the candles. How the groundhog got in on this I'm not sure.

The really curious part of the whole deal is why if the sun is out, thus indicating a warming trend, the critter's seeing his shadow should mean six more weeks of winter. Logic would seem to point the other way around. But, then, who said it had anything to do with logic anyway?

For an interesting take on the situation, check this article on Slate.com.

Maybe I'll write a groundhog mystery and clear up the whole thing. Meanwhile, to keep with the times, get out and do something silly today.

5 comments:

Jane Kennedy Sutton said...

I learn something everyday! Enjoyed the post. Unfortunately, I heard this morning we're in for 6 more weeks of winter.

Jane Kennedy Sutton
Author of The Ride
http://janekennedysutton.blogspot.com/

Jane Kennedy Sutton said...

I learn something everyday! Enjoyed the post. Unfortunately, I heard this morning we're in for 6 more weeks of winter.

Jane Kennedy Sutton
Author of The Ride
http://janekennedysutton.blogspot.com/

Cat Connor said...

I learned something too. Of course for us it's still summer with no let up in sight. :)

Chester Campbell said...

Some got it lucky, some don't. It's cold here in Nashville, but we're headed for SleuthFest at
Deerfield Beach, FL in about three weeks. Looking forward to the warmth, Groundhog be damned.

Krista said...

To the question of why the sun being out would foreshadow (couldn't help it) 6 more weeks of winter; I used to live next to a meteorologist and asked him this question. His take was that foul weather is caused by different weather systems colliding, which indicates movement and therefore a change of seasons. For what it's worth...

-Krista
http://www.shadesofwhitematter.wordpress.com