February 2 is Groundhog Day, a weather lore that has its origins in ancient Europe, but Groundhog Day has a different meaning for me. I think of Woody each Groundhog day.
Well, you ask who is Woody?
Woody isn’t as famous as Punxsutawney Phil, or Birmingham Bill or Shubenacadie Sam, but he was just as important to a small group of people in VA.
When we lived in Burke, VA, many years ago, we had a groundhog who we named Woody that burrowed under our carport. At first we would catch a glimpse of a furry brown, round creature in the back yard scampering around and wondered what it was. That little groundhog became brave and eventually would sit at the end of the carport and stare at us just as we would stare at him. We did some research and learned he was a woodchuck, so he became known as Woody. We also learned that Woody loved lettuce. Even though Woody was supposed to be hibernating, he would pop out of his burrow to get his snack of salad that we would leave for him throughout the winter. The only sound Woody made was a low bark and we all knew to stay our distance, since he was a wild animal.
All the kids in the neighborhood would stop by to get a glimpse at Woody and Woody didn’t seem to mind the stares. I believe he enjoy his fame. On February 2 that one year we had our own Groundhog Day celebration, but it really didn’t count since Woody would emerge from his burrow every day for his snack, and he was in the shade, however we did have fun watching and waiting for him to appear.
The tradition of Groundhog Day began in Gobbler’s Knob in Punxsutawney, PA. The first documented American reference to Groundhog Day can be found in a diary entry, dated February 4, 1841, of Morgantown, PA storekeeper James Morris.
The tradition of Groundhog Day says if a groundhog comes out of its hole on February 2 and sees its shadow, there will be six more weeks of winter weather; no shadow means an early spring.
Groundhog Day has its roots in the ancient Christian tradition of Candlemas Day, when clergy would bless and distribute candles needed for winter. The candles represented how long and cold the winter would be. Germans expanded on this concept by selecting an animal like the groundhog as a means of predicating weather. After the German settlers came to PA, they continued the tradition, which is now known as Groundhog Day.
In Scotland there was a poem:
If Candle-mas Day is bright and clear,
There'll be two winters in the year.
If Candle mas be fair and bright,
Winter has another flight.
If Candlemas brings clouds and rain,
Winter will not come again.
I wish everyone a Happy Groundhog Day.