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Holidays and Traditions
Rodents
Gophers and Groundhogs
Groundhog Day

Did they use a badger or a hedgehog instead of a groundhog on Groundhog's Day in Europe?

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February 03, 2009 6:07PM

Europeans do not have an equivalent of Groundhog Day. In Canada and the US, Ground Hog Day is a silly annual festival, held in late winter, to 'predict" how soon Spring will come to the area, Groundhog Day in the US (as seen in the Bill Murray film) is 2nd February. Early in the morning, of the " Day ", a tame Ground Hog, is observed, to see if there is enough daylight for him " to see his shadow ". The result means either 6 more weeks of winter weather, or a earlier than normal spring thaw of the lakes and rivers, which are frozen in winter in Canada. A number of towns hold such a "Ground Hog Festival" as a tourist boost for the town. Some attract huge crowds, as much as 25,000 people to a town with a normal population of 5,000. The Day is allways held on a week end to get maximum attendance, and TV stations all ways send a camera crew to do a "live remote shoot". It is all in fun, and nobody takes it seriously at all. Pre-Christian Celts observed solar cycles halfway between each solstice and equinox; these are called Quarter Days. On Quarter Days, the "veil" between this world and the Otherworld or spirit world is thinnest. This is the best time to see into the future, with the aid of the spirits. On Samhuin (now Halloween) one dresses as a ghoul so that spirits intent on mischief would mistake you for one of their own and pass by. Groundhog day corresponds to Imbolc, therefore it has the prognostication aspect. Hedgehogs are "used" in Britain. Don't pick one up - they're loaded with fleas. The underlying principle behind Groundhog Day in North America was almost certainly brought over by settlers from western Europe. Both in England and Scotland there are old weather sayings about the same date (2 February) which is celebrated in many Christian traditions as the Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the popular name for which is Candlemas. All these sayings are similar; one example is: "If Candlemas Day be fair and bright Winter will have another fight; But if Candlemas Day brings clouds and rain, Winter's gone and won't come again." The principle behind the rhyme is this: in NW Europe (including the British Isles), sunny weather in early February is normally associated with anticyclonic weather, which often persists for long periods and brings long periods of cold, frosty weather. Cloudy, rainy weather is usually associated with depressions coming in from the Atlantic and the weather is consequently less cold, snow and frost appearing only briefly, if at all. The important thing is that by early February the weather is normally set in a pattern in that one or other of the above types tends to persist, usually for several weeks.