This morning, I decided to see whether Groundhog Day is another one of those holidays, like Halloween or Christmas, with roots--not in modern day phenomena like the Punxatawny, Pa., TV station's weather forecast but further back--in ancient times.
I'm very happy to report that I hit PAYDIRT. Yes, this day does have ancient roots, going at least as far back to 542 A.D. But please click the link and read this fascinating article.
Among the scientific and historical nuggets I mined from "Weather Doctor's Almanac for 1998, Celebrating Groundhog Day," I learned that the beginning of February marks the start of Solar Spring! Hooray!
In my youth (long before Bill Murray was born), we never celebrated the groundhog's first venture from his burrow (yup, HIS burrow...the Weather Doctor says female groundhogs don't come out of hibernation for quite a while yet).
We observed February 2 as Candlemas Day--the day whose most salient liturgical point was the long line of sneezing, snuffling, bundled-up children waiting to kneel two at a time at the communion rail to get our throats blessed after morning Mass. A couple of the nuns would stand at the ends of the front pews to make sure our throats were free and clear--the layers of scarves unwrapped, the topmost coat, sweater, and shirt buttons undone--so Father Walsh or Father Branconniere could stick the "X" arrangement of two candles against our necks and recite the blessing. The blessing invoked St. Blaise, patron saint of sore throats. The idea was that this actually worked, and I apologize for not researching any scientific proof.
If the blessing didn't take, however, (often) our mothers would paint our throats with MERCUROCHROME!! Mercurochrome was a sure-fire cure, but omg...that was MERCURY they were swabbing on our tonsils! Last I tried, I couldn't even BUY mercurochrome any more at the local pill, nostrum, greeting card, and whatnot emporium known as CVS. The PTB (Powers That Be) have decided dabbing mercury on our cuts is too dangerous.
It's a wonder we survived. Of course, all weather is local, which means so are all weather prognostications. Despite all the nonsense about "six weeks left of winter," etc., Groundhog Day in North Dakota was only halfway through the danger zone of the ND winter. We still had to get through February AND March, when the worst blizzards came, plus April and May, too. I have a photo of my old yellow Chrysler almost completely buried in the May Day blizzard of 1967, but of course, I can't find it now in the gazillion photos unearthed during moving....