Groundhog Day. Amongst Other Things.
Posted by Exile on February 5, 2007
I missed out on Groundhog Day this year. Probably because I don’t live in the USA in Pennsylvania. If you aren’t big on dates and the like, then let me tell you here, that Groundhog day is the 2nd of February, every year. The celebrations in Punxsatawney have been going on since the 1890’s.
According to the official website, the tradition was brought to the area by immigrant Germans, but has its roots way back in the times of the Roman occupation of most of Europe. Signalling the end of winter, this has been celebrated in Europe for donkeys years and is now a high point on Pennsylvania’s calendar.The day coincides with what the church calls Candlemas. The Groundhog is the American stand in for the European hedgehog.
I remember the annual celebrations that have come and gone since my childhood. I remember seeing a “Wassail” once, where farmers and their families gathered in orchards and fired shotguns into the canopies of apple trees to drive out the spooks and ensure a good crop of apples, and thus, a good supply of cider for the following winter.
Mayday, the official start of summer, complete with maypole and morris dancers.
Midsummer festivals. Tea and cakes and local produce. Beer and cider. More morris dancers! And winter carnivals.
I don’t know how many of these age old customs were exported to the US by our errant ancestors who left for a better life in the New World. Probably many. (The French, for example, exported Mardi Gras. Not everything French is bad!)
And subsequently they founded some of their own, such as Thanksgiving Day.
I’m not thinking of religious celebrations here. Simply the old fashioned “let’s have a party” traditions that mark what was probably once a paegan calendar or a celebration of agricultural survival. It was important to know when to sow, when to reap and when to just enjoy what the year offered as the seasons changed. Marking the natural highs, and preparing for winter’s long drag, these festivals were as important as they were functional.
I wonder, what the future holds for us regarding these quaint old customs? What will the new wave of immigration bring to us? What traditions will come to be celebrated on cold winter mornings or long summer days in the future?
Stoning day? Whipping day? How about, Clitorectomy day?…. Hand chopping off day. There’s a good one. I’m really looking forward to that….