The Big Sandy Mountaineer -

Groundhog Day Name Should Be Changed


February 6, 2019

I've never understood Groundhog Day. February has always meant calving season, and the concern that the weather wouldn't cooperate. When I researched Ground Hog Day I found it was a popular tradition celebrated in Canada and the United States. Popular? Why? The tradition comes from Pennsylvania Dutch man's diary about his German neighbor's celebration. If a ground hog comes out of his winter burrow and sees its shadow, he will return to his den and winter will persist for six more weeks. If it happens to be a bad day with no sun shine and if he does not see his shadow spring will arrive early.

The earliest mention of Ground Hog Day is on February 2, 1840. However, the first official Groundhog Day ceremony was held in 1887 at Punxsutawney in western Pennsylvania. We owe the editor Clymer Freas (1867-1942) of the Punxsutawney Spirit for conceiving the idea. The Groundhog Day celebrations started at Punxsutawney Elks Lodge. They had been serving groundhog at the lodge, and had been organizing a hunting party on a day each year in late summer. The historian states that the meat was served in the lodge's banquet room, and the organized hunt started after that. But groundhog has to be marinated well ahead of time before serving it. They say the meat was a cross between pork and chicken. So, the hunting trips were mostly symbolic. Not very many people liked the meat and the practice of serving it has long since disappeared.

The largest Groundhog Day celebration that has been held in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, was near 40,000. In 2019, the 133rd year of the tradition, the groundhog was summoned to come out at 7:25 am.

Groundhogs are creatures within the rodent family that weigh between 12 and 15 pounds and can live up to 8 years. These animals are omnivores, but commonly feast on grass, vegetables, and fruit. Groundhogs have the ability to climb trees and, much like beavers, swim. Each fall, groundhogs go into hibernation until March. When the animals emerge from hibernation, their initial purpose is to find a mate.

Even after researching, the tradition, is with some variety practiced in a number of nationalities, I can find no real purpose for the starting of the day. However, there is a large number of stories where each place is considered the Ground Hog Capital of the World.

Maybe February 2, 2019 will remain in Big Sandy the start of calving. Could we come up with a name to celebrate the Cowboy. Like does the horse see is shadow, and does it mean good weather for calving?


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