By Sue KILPATRICK
“Groundhog Day-Half your hay”
— American Farmer’s Lore, 19th Century
No matter the actual weather conditions on Feb. 2, which is Groundhog’s Day, winter is far from over. If a farmer didn’t have half his hay remaining around this date, there may have been lean times for the cows and other livestock before spring and fresh grass arrived. Well, there are no groundhogs in La Crescenta and no farmers dependent on the weather. So why did the groundhog, often called a woodchuck, come to have a day on the calendar? Based on ancient beliefs, this day has now become one of tradition and fun. Sounds like a good enough reason to me!
The origins of Groundhog’s Day are clouded in the mists of time. It most likely stems from the dependence on hibernating animals to predict the arrival of spring by their emergence. German immigrants brought this tradition to America in the 1700s. In Germany the badger was the winter-spring barometer and this job was then reassigned to the American groundhog. Over time this became tied into the observance of Candlemas – a holiday recognized by early Christians in Europe. Both stories concluded that, on this day, if it was sunny there would be six more weeks of stormy, cold winter or if it rained or snowed, the rest of winter would be mild. With time all the folklore and legends intertwined with fact came together to create the popular tradition of Groundhog’s Day in the United States.
So, here is the final-revised version. On Feb. 2, the groundhog comes out of his hole after a long winter’s sleep to look for his shadow. If he sees it, there will be six more weeks of winter and back down he goes. Or if the day is overcast and shadowless, spring has arrived and naptime is over.
This never made much sense to me – quite the opposite in fact. Perhaps upon seeing his own shadow, fear sent him scampering back into hiding. This year in Pennsylvania, as the groundhog made his historical appearance, he was blasted by a monster-size blizzard – no shadow here. But whatever his experience may be, spring will always arrive on approximately March 20 every year.
In contrast, any animal (or person) venturing out of their home in Crescenta Valley was greeted by abundant sunshine and thus its shadow.
So our weather continues sunny and clear. The Santa Ana winds will blow again and temperatures will warm into the 70s. Nights will remain in the 40s. Never again, after last weekend’s surprise rain, will I say, “You will not need your umbrella”!
As said by quotation anthologist Terri Guillemets: “Weather is a great metaphor for life – sometimes it’s good, sometimes it’s bad, and there’s nothing much you can do about it but carry an umbrella.”
Sue Kilpatrick is a longtime CV resident and amateur weather watcher. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.