Lunar Observer records upcoming dates of interest: holidays, birthdays, best day to cut hair.
In this article I commit to figuring out what is the deal with Groundhog Day (February 2).
Groundhog Day is a holiday in the US and Canada in which a groundhog is called upon to declare whether it’s going to still be winter in six weeks or whether winter is going to fade before that. While there is certainly value in knowing (or pretending to know) whether it’s going to stay cold or what, at its heart, Groundhog Day is about the intersection between two calendar systems — the now-standard calendar that puts the beginning of spring at the vernal equinox (March 20), when there is finally more daylight than night, and the Pagan calendar that puts it well in advance, at the cross-quarter day of Imbolc (February 2), building toward the equinox at the center of the season.
I can picture myself having this argument and being on either side of the debate, arguing vehemently. Do you round winter down to the cross-quarter day, when it’s obvious that things are changing? Or do you not count it “officially” until Things Done Changed? Is a spring a spring when it’s coiled in readiness or only when it’s sprung? It’s a question of outlook more than anything else, and it was a bold, thoughtful, King-Solomon-level move to put the official decision in the court of the groundhog and save us the worry.
It was a bold, thoughtful, King-Solomon-level move to put the official decision in the court of the groundhog and save us the worry.
The method by which the groundhog works is as follows: It comes out of its hole. If it see its shadow, which is to say, if the day is bright and shadows are clearly defined, that indicates a longer winter. If it’s overcast and shadows aren’t readily discernible, that means spring is just around the corner. In this way, the decision to use a groundhog is pretty arbitrary — anything that casts a shadow can give you the same information. But a groundhog is good. It’s a good feeling to listen to an animal. And even if the language we ascribe to it is a total fabrication, I think listening to an animal is good practice.
The main groundhog, for no reason other than brand strength, is Punxsutawney Phil, of Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, USA. But as stated earlier, any groundhog or ground-based animal will suffice. Numerous towns and cities across the US and Canada have groundhogs or groundhogs-by-association that they consult, from Shubenacadie Sam, groundhog of Shubenacadie, Nova Scotia, to Mojave Max, a desert tortoise of the Red Canyon National Conservation Area, Nevada.
It’s a good feeling to listen to an animal.
If you would like to start a Groundhog Day event in your hometown, we recommend against caging and maintaining a native groundhog — even if you feed it dog food and ice cream all year like Punxsutawney Phil, the life of a groundhog is in the ground, not in your civic event space. Instead try just going on a hike with friends, and if you don’t see any native fauna, locate a suitable thicket and pay a child in your group to go and emerge from it. If you don’t hang out with children (hello out there), then get your crew together, sit outside on the street, and count how many people walk by. Take note of the 100th person — that’s your groundhog. You may select your 50th or even 30th person if you live in a small town and/or it’s cold as shit out. If your groundhog steps off the curb with their left foot, short winter. Right foot, long. If you can’t get a posse together for this one, then just leave the house and be your own groundhog. Don’t look out the window or check an app before you go — just this once, try not to notice the weather until it’s on you.