Tuesday is Groundhog Day, celebrated famously in Punxsutawny, Pennsylvania, and maybe not-as-famously — not yet any less enthusiastically — here in Connecticut.
On Sunday, I spent the afternoon in beautiful Essex. The river air may have been chilly, but the mood was warm with fun and excitement as the town celebrated its annual Groundhog Day Parade, and the return of Essex Ed. If you’ve never seen Essex Ed, he’s a 10-foot-tall groundhog — this year, dressed as Elvis in honor of The King’s 75th birthday. He was escorted along Main Street by fire engines, antique cars, a fife ‘n drum corps and hundreds of well wishers who banged pots, blew whistles and made all sorts of racket in order to “wake up” the over-sized rodent. It was quite a spectacle, and a great family event. I encourage everyone to go at least once.
But don’t worry, if you missed the Essex festivities, you can check out the Lutz Children’s Museum in Manchester. On Tuesday, at 7:03 a.m., Chuckles the Groundhog will make her annual appearance. A year-and-a-half-old female, apparently she was correct in her first-ever prognostication last year, so she’s already started out on the right paw. Even though it hasn’t been a particularly nasty winter, I’m still hoping for less winter and more spring. Yay global warming!
Anyway, if you were wondering why we celebrate this at all — and truthfully, I was — our now familiar Groundhog Day is derived from the holiday of Candlemas. The event, as we know it with the groundhog’s ability to see his shadow serving as a prognosticator of impending weather, dates back to the mid-1800s, and appears to have been a German custom originating in Pennsylvania.
From Wikipedia —
An early American reference to Groundhog Day can be found in a diary entry, dated February 5, 1841, of Berks County, Pennsylvania storekeeper James Morris:
“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.”
In Scotland the tradition may also derive from an English poem:
As the light grows longer
The cold grows stronger
If Candlemas be fair and bright
Winter will have another flight
If Candlemas be cloud and snow
Winter will be gone and not come again
A farmer should on Candlemas day
Have half his corn and half his hay
On Candlemas day if thorns hang a drop
You can be sure of a good pea crop
Right now, the forecast is for a mostly cloudy day, so we’ll see how if there’s a shadow to be seen or not.
And of course, you can’t have any post about Groundhog Day without —
Say hi to Ned and enjoy the day!