Wednesday, February 01, 2006

An American Critter Legend

February 2nd, "Groundhog Day"

An old Scottish couplet that predates the Roman invasion of England says:

"If Candlemas Day is bright and clear,
There'll be twa (two) winters in the year."

Candles were blessed by the clergy on Candlemas day, which was mid way between the first day of Winter (the Winter Solstice) and the first day of Spring (the Spring Equinox,) and forty days after the birth of Christ.

If the sun came out on February 2, Candlemas Day, it meant there would be a second winter that year, or six more weeks of winter weather. It was also believed that the hibernating animals knew instinctively when to leave their burrows and dens.

The favorite hibernating
animal to watch in the
British Isles was the

Eventually, the Romans legions would carry this tradition from Scotland and England to Germany, where the badger would be the popular animal to forecast the coming of Spring.

The early American settlers of German origin continued to celebrate Candlemas Day in their new home in the 1700s. They traveled westward to the territory known as Pennsylvania, where in time they would come to be known as the Pennsylvania Dutch.

It was the native-American Delaware Indians who founded a settlement between the Allegheny and the Susquehanna Rivers that they called "ponksad-uteney," the "town of the sandflies," which is known today as Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania.

The Delawares believed that the woodchuck or groundhog was an ancestor to be honored, and the new German settlers quickly adopted the American groundhog as their weather forecaster.

"If Candlemas be fair and bright,
Winter has another flight.
If Candlemas brings clouds and rain,
Winter will not come again."

Visit Punxsutawney Phil

Adopt a Hedgehog in the UK