Today is Groundhog Day. In places like Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, people wait with baited breath, while observing how groundhogs react to today’s meteorological conditions, as they emerge from their burrows…….. The Pennsylvanians will also wait with baited breath to see if I spell Punxsutawney correctly!
Folklore decrees that the following applies when the groundhog first emerges from its burrow on the 2nd February:-
- If it’s cloudy then spring will arrive early.
- If it’s sunny then the groundhog will retreat into the burrow after seeing its shadow. Meaning that wintry conditions will prevail.
- If it’s raining the groundhog will retreat into the burrow; only to re-emerge a few minutes later with wood, hammer and nails to build an ark. Indicating weeks of non-stop rain.
- If it is snowing the groundhog will go get a sledge from Homebase. This doesn’t mean much weather forecast wise, but behaviourally educates us that groundhogs shop at DIY stores and like sledging!
After the recent levels of precipitation we have had in northern England and Scotland my money’s on the third scenario!
Groundhog Day started as a custom in south east and central Pennsylvania, USA, in the 18th and 19th centuries. Its origins lay in ancient western Europe weather lore, before it evolved into more reliable scientific indicators, such as old Hans’ bunions and how low the flamingos built their nests.
In current day southeastern Pennsylvania, Groundhog Lodges (Grundsow Lodges) celebrate the holiday with fersommlinge. These are social events in which food is served, speeches are made and entertainment is provided via the medium of plays.
The only language spoken at the fersommlinge is the Pennsylvania German dialect. As in the northern England town of Birtley, speaking English is frowned upon, so is not used often. The result of not complying are penalty’s like fines, or being subject to Masonic ritual of donkey bites and wedgies!
Blimey, after penning the last two sentences above, I’ve just had a ghoulish shiver through my body. It’s the last time I’ll use English, German and penalty’s in the same paragraph again!
As we are bereft of groundhogs in the West Yorkshire area, we in Chez Strachan improvise on this holiday. On the 2nd February, our family attempt to work out the forthcoming week’s weather by how Rachel (our 22 year old daughter) reacts when she emerges from her room.
Over the years Karen and my observations have identified the following:-
- If Rachel emerges from her room dishevelled and grumpy, it will rain until her birthday in the middle of March.
- If she is happy, it will snow for a month in all equatorial nations.
- If on emerging she says “Morning dad!”, then she’s after a lift to work!
- If our offspring says “Stop arsing around all the time, dad!”, that isn’t a meteorological indicator, moreover a sign to give her a wide berth!
To calm people in equatorial nations, I don’t want you panicking about the materialisation of snow, referred to in scenario two. I have never seen Rachel emerge from her room on a morning looking happy!
Another thing I’ve never seen is the movie ‘Groundhog Day’ which, you’ll be surprised to hear, is based on the holiday I’ve alluded to. I’m told that in it Bill Murray plays an arrogant and egotistical weatherman. He’s a sort of Piers Morgan who reads the weather and doesn’t measure the quality of a person on the number of twitter followers they have!
As with the woman who had more kids than teeth on a recent ‘Jeremy Kyle’ show, I’ve never fancied it! The movie that is, not Bill Murray or Piers Morgan, although that also applies!
I’ve just read that today one of the Sky movie channels is replaying ‘Groundhog Day’ repeatedly for 24 hours. which I’m going to give that a wide berth.
Instead of ‘Groundhog Day’, I’m going to celebrate ‘Boss Hogg Day’ with back to back re-runs of the ‘Dukes of Hazzard’ on another cable channel! …… Yeeha!!!
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