So why do some folks smirk at Squirrel Appreciation day but then gin up all this hullabaloo over Groundhog day? Go figure….they’re both neat animals and I’m glad we celebrate them!
Groundhogs are also known as woodchucks (even though they don’t chuck wood). They’re great at digging at create really neat underground habitats with different entrances and exits and underground rooms. Here’s a nice video on groundhog life and times:
Mostly, the Groundhog Day tradition is about the change in seasons and having enough harvest left to make it through winter. There’s a rhyme that shows this:
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 rain
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
The date itself is rooted in observations that Scottish, English and German farmers had hundreds of years ago that this was a waypoint (almost the midpoint) between winter (Winter Solstice was Dec 21) and the first day of Spring (Vernal Equinox is March 20) and that animals, like the Groundhog, wouldn’t come out of hibernation until the weather had started to turn for the better.
Coming out of hibernation too early or, in the case of humans, not having enough harvest left, could mean starvation.
In Europe, farmers watched the cues of hedgehogs but as people (e.g.,Germans) immigrated to America (places like PA and other northeastern states), they incorporated the groundhog into their tradition and lore – and who wouldn’t! They’re awfully cute!
Happy Groundhog Day!