Happy Groundhog Day!
Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow today. That means six more weeks of winter.
As a native of Western Pennsylvania I know Punxsutawney very well. My boys love driving through the city spotting all human-sized, multicolored and themed groundhogs.
Head on over to Slate to read Timothy Noah's article on Groundhog Day. One of the interesting things I learned was the connection between Groundhog day and an old Christian feast day--Candlemas.
From Noah's essay:
After further inquiry, Chatterbox is able to report that it isn't strictly necessary that the groundhog see his shadow; merely that he cast one that others may see. The determining factor, then, is whether it's sunny or cloudy on Candlemas Day, an early Christian feast day commemorating the Virgin Mary's postnatal purification that involved a lot of candle-bearing and therefore, inevitably, the casting of many shadows. Like many other Christian festivals, Candlemas co-opted an earlier pagan rite, and nowadays Wiccans are much keener about celebrating it than most Christians.
Candlemas folklore, which begat the less exalted Groundhog Day folklore, is paradoxical, apparently by design. If the sun is shining—a sign often taken to mean the weather's getting warmer—there will be six weeks more of winter. If the sun isn't shining—a sign often taken to mean that it will remain cold and snowy or wet—then winter's over, or almost over. This superstition gave rural people much mystery to dwell upon during the chill nights of February and March, which was greatly preferable to having them get schnockered. According to an old Scottish rhyme,
If Candlemas Day be dry and fair,
Half the winter's to come and mair.
If Candlemas Day be wet and foul,
Half o' winter's gane at Yule.