How is it that we consider a ground hog a prognosticator of weather? Each year in Pennsylvania, poor Punxsutawney Phil comes out of his hole, whether he wants to or not, and is held up in front of television cameras and a gathering of thousands of people and group of town dignitaries, who pronounce his prediction. That show, er, tradition is based on several ancient and modern customs, including Candelmas, a derivative of the Celts' Imbolc celebration of coming spring, according to the History channel website.
"In certain parts of Europe, Christians believed that a sunny Candlemas meant another 40 days of cold and snow. Germans developed their own take on the legend, pronouncing the day sunny only if badgers and other animals glimpsed their own shadows. When German immigrants settled Pennsylvania in the 18th and 19th centuries, they brought the custom with them, choosing the native groundhog as the annual forecaster," it reads.
The first official Groundhog Day was held in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, in 1887as a marketing endeavor for the town. Since then, the celebration has been presided over by the "Inner Circle," men in formal clothing who speak "Groundhogese," otherwise known as Pennsylvania Dutch. Other parts of the United States have adopted similar events, but use other kinds of animals.
What is most notable is that Groundhog Day is February 2, a place in the calendar that sits about 6 or 7 weeks before the spring solstice, or first day of spring. If Groundhog Day is sunny, hence a shadow prediction, does it mean more winter? The History channel reports, well, yes. Not because the groundhog saw his shadow. It's simply still winter. The same would be true for a cloudy day.
"While sunny winter days are indeed associated with colder, drier air, we probably shouldn’t trade in our meteorologists for groundhogs just yet. Recent studies by the National Climatic Data Center and the Canadian weather service have yielded success rates south of 40 percent for the animals. Last year, Punxsutawney Phil cheered winter-weary onlookers when he failed to see his shadow, but spring arrived no earlier than usual," writes the History channel.
So hunker down for just a bit longer, and in the meantime cuddle under a warm blanket with a good book. It's one thing that makes winter lovely -- a winter readerland. You could go out, but why? Stay warm inside and out with a good read. Book in one hand, you can be cozy, completely covered with a favorite blanket. Every now and then your other hand can slip out from under the blanket as you sip a cup of hot coffee or tea or hot chocolate without missing a beat in your reading. If you're lucky enough to have a fireplace, add that dimension to your winter wonderland – inside. Summer reads are special, but winter reads are delicious in their own rite.
What books are you reading this winter and how do you keep warm when it's blustery outside?