Saturday, February 03, 2018

Groundhog Day

This morning Benjamin participated in the Kindy 500 (like the Indy 500, only for kindergarten). Each student made a car out of a box, which they "drove" around the school for all the parents and classes, and then they spent the day (or 2 hours, as it were) driving around the school to various American landmarks/symbols and having a mini lesson about them. There was the Statue of Liberty, Mount Rushmore, an eagle, a flag...that kind of thing.

They had fun. And I have a few pictures of the initial parade, which I will eventually get off of the camera (but our card reader is no longer reading cards so that will have to wait), but that's not really what this post is about, anyway.

This post is about how I walked home from the school this morning with my friend Gulnaz, who is from Russia. She remarked how beautiful the weather was, and that it was more like spring than like winter, which is totally true.

So then I told her that today was Groundhog Day and that the principal had joked during morning announcements (she missed those) that Punxsatawney Phil had seen his shadow, dooming us with six weeks of winter, though if the six more weeks of winter we're in for are anything like the weather we've had so far this winter we'll be quite comfortable until spring.

She was like, "Groundhog...Day...?"

So I tried to explain Groundhog Day to her, which was...difficult.

Have you ever wanted to sound like a crazy person?

Explain Groundhog Day to a foreigner unfamiliar with the concept.

Sure, so, there's this groundhog—just a little animal that lives underground—they call him Punxsatawney Phil—he's named after this town in Pennsylvania—and every year on February 2nd they hold a huge celebration where they let Punxsatawney Phil out of his cage and if he sees his shadow it means we'll have six more weeks of winter and if he doesn't see his shadow then spring is right around the corner. It's completely not crazy; we're fine.

She was like, "Uh-huh."

So I looked it up when I got home, just to see where and how this craziness started. Turns out, the answer to that question is religion.

February second is Candlemas Day "a Christian Holy Day commemorating the presentation of Jesus at the Temple." On that day it was often said, "If Candlemas is fair and clear / There'll be twa winters in the year." The Germans were the first to allow an animal to play the role of weather forecaster—first with a bear and then, when bears got scarce, badgers. The Pennsylvania Dutch carried on the tradition with a groundhog.

And thus we have Groundhog Day today.

And now I know that today is also Candlemas Day (because I had no idea about that).

I know Mormons aren't often counted as "regular" Christians (perhaps because we have no idea when things like Candlemas Day is—it signifies the end of Christmas in Puerto Rico, by the way, so I think we can be fully justified in singing Christmas songs until today, right Andrew?) so now I wonder if "regular" Christians have known about this connection all along and I just never did because it was never talked about in church (where there was never a mention of Candlemas Day, though we of course learn about the presentation of Jesus at the Temple) or school (where the holiday was kept strictly secular).


  1. Nope. I don't recall any talk of it being connected to Candlemas Day or Germans, but it's interesting how German immigrants brought that tradition here.

    "... it was never talked about in church (where there was never a mention of Candlemas Day, though we of course learn about the presentation of Jesus at the Temple)" -- same for me

    1. Good to know I'm not alone! When I was reading about it, it seemed like Catholics celebrated Candlemas, Episcopalians celebrated Candlemas...but I guess Protestants don't...except that Episcopalians are kind of Protestant...? *shrug*

  2. You should have just handed her a copy of the movie Ground Hog day 😂 The weather has been seriously nuts. Our neighbors just moved her in the fall from california and they are like, "wow Idaho isn't so bad. We can handle winter." And I'm like, "uh huh...sure." No point in ruining their buzz.

  3. Forty days after Christmas, right? Makes sense. Thanks for teaching me about this. I love finding 'new' fun religious holidays! (Pancake Day = Shrove Tuesday = Mardi Gras = Lent = 40 days before Easter! Take that IHOP!)