Spanish Joe tells us
About Groundhog Day
Groundhog Day originates far back
with a spring festival know as Imbolc. (or Imbolg, Oimelc). The name is
derived from the old Gaelic word for "ewe's milk". This was the time of
year that the European farm animals would be giving birth, and their
milk was beginning to flow.
This was also a holiday dedicated to the
Irish Goddess Brigid (prounounced Breed). The Christian version of this
holiday became Saint Brigit's Day as the early Christian church
attempted to convert the Pagan country folk to the church.
Candles were often lit to lure back the
sunshine of spring (hence the name Candlemas was later used for the
holiday when it was adopted for use to commemorate the ritual
purification of Mary, 40 days after the chosen birthday of Jesus).
Weather predictions were a common
practice at Imbolc, as the farmers tried to see how long it would be
until Spring arrived. The various signs and portents that were supposed
to signal the coming Spring are the origins of Groundhog Day as we know
Imbolc was one of the four
"cross-quarters" of the year, occurring half way between the first day
of winter and the first day of spring. Traditionally, it was believed
that if Imbolc was sunny, the remaining six weeks of winter would be
stormy and cold. But if it rained or snowed on Imbolc, the rest of the
winter would be mild. If an animal "sees its shadow," it must be sunny,
so more wintry weather is predicted:
If Imbolc (Candlemas in some versions) be
fair and bright,
Winter has another flight.
If Imbolc (Candlemas in some versions) brings clouds and rain,
Winter will not come again.
Europeans used hedgehogs and bears to
predict the future. Sometimes other animals were used as well, but in
any case the honor always belonged to a creature that hibernated. Its
emergence symbolized the imminent arrival of spring.
When German Christian settlers moved to
what is now Pennsylvania USA they continued these Christianized
traditions, using groundhogs instead of the original hedgehogs.
The first official Groundhog Day was
celebrated on February 2, 1886 in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, with a
proclamation in The Punxsutawney Spirit by the newspaper's editor,
Clymer Freas: "Today is groundhog day and up to the time of going to
press the beast has not seen its shadow."
Now in Northern Ontario we have our very
own Spanish Joe who not only predicts the weather but takes on the
wondrous task of predicting what our entire year will be like.
We are proud to have Spanish Joe as our
Mascot - the scale by which all other groundhogs are measured.