Saturday, January 22, 2011

Groundhog Day

"Groundhog Day is almost upon us and I just can't seem to get into the spirit." Such was the caption of a Guindon cartoon that featured some sad looking characters, a cartoon I cut out many years ago and tacked on my bulletin board.

Groundhog Day is highly underrated. I will bet that most people don't even know the date, or what it represents, especially in "sunny" California.

On Groundhog Day, Punksatawney Phil, the "official" groundhog kept in Punksatawney, PA, is taken out and, depending on the weather, either sees his shadow or he doesn't. Punksatawny Phil is the unofficial predictor of six more weeks of winter or an early spring here in the U.S. In the frozen and snow-bound East Coast, Groundhog Day has a little more significance than in California.

Today I had lunch with my good friend Esperanza, who is from Mexico. She remembers the exact day she arrived in the United States -- February 2nd, which is Candelmas Day in Mexico, or Groundhog Day in the U.S. When she was a young child, everyone in her village celebrated Candlemas Day by collecting hay from the fields, piling the hay in the front yard, and lighting the haystacks on fire. A night when every household up and down the street was literally lit up, at a time when not every household even had electricity.

Groundhog Day, or Candlemas Day, occurs in the middle of winter, supposedly halfway between the winter solstice and the spring equinox. In medieval times, on Candelmas Day priests blessed candles for use in the homes for the rest of the year. Candlemas Day also had religious significance for Catholics, as the presesentation of the baby Jesus in the temple 40 days after his birth, and/or the purification of Mary, his mother.

But Candlemas Day is basically unknown and little celebrated in the U.S. in the present day, even in the Catholic church. My feeling is, why not bring Groundhog Day back to its rightful prominence as a holiday that can be celebrated by everyone, regardless of religious background.

I am thinking greeting cards, tee shirts, mugs. Cute little groundhogs poking their heads up out of the earth. The commercialization potential is huge -- a true American holdiay.

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