Where do groundhog’s get their amazing ability to predict weather patterns? It’s a mystery that science has yet to solve. Other animals seem to have innate abilities to gauge weather patterns, as well. For instance, dogs seem to get out of the way whenever a tornado blows through town …how do they do it? But, only the noble groundhog seems to know the February 2nd is exactly 6 weeks from the Spring Equinox. Just amazing!
But, seriously folks, Groundhog (or Groundhog’s) Day falls into the WTF category of holidays. Nobody really seems to know what the hell it’s commemorating. Well, the addition of the noble groundhog into the festivities may be relatively new, but the celebration itself is quite old. Like other holidays, it’s celestial in origin. February 2nd is the midpoint between the Winter Solstice and the Spring Equinox. In Pagan circles, it’s known as Imbolc and it is often associated with the Gaelic goddess Brigid (later to become Saint Brigid after the Catholics decided that having saints would help to convert a few Irish).
In the Christian religions, the same day is celebrated as Candlemass, or the Feast of the Presentation, in the Roman Catholic and Orthodox churches.
Pope Innocent the XII commented on the origins of Candlemass in a sermon:
Why do we in this feast carry candles? Because the Gentiles dedicated the month of February to the infernal gods, and as at the beginning of it Pluto stole Proserpine, and her mother Ceres sought her in the night with lighted candles, so they, at the beginning of the month, walked about the city with lighted candles. Because the holy fathers could not extirpate the custom, they ordained that Christians should carry about candles in honor of the Blessed Virgin; and thus what was done before in the honor of Ceres is now done in honor of the Blessed Virgin
But, no matter what the origin of the holiday … well, nobody really does much of anything for it. It’s too cold to get naked in the woods, and bars don’t really have any drink specials associated with it or anything.
I ran across an interesting story on Groundhog’s Day, and just had to add it to my blog. On the Skepticality podcast they mentioned that a reporter covering the Punxsutawney Pil event was concerned that the light from the reporter’s cameras might be causing a shadow that would scare Phil back under the ground and therefore cause six more weeks of winter! So, if you thought that groundhog behavior predicting the weather was a bit silly, apparently some think it can control the weather! I guess carbon emmisions aren’t teh only human behavior altering the weather!