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Afraid of His Own Shadow

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February 2nd, 2013 Posted 5:30 am

“What’s your favorite holiday?”  is a shockingly common question. My answer is not shockingly common.  Of course, the expected answer is Halloween. It seems Christmas or Mother’s Day would be equally acceptable.

But wrong.

My favorite holiday is Groundhog’s Day.

I know. It’s weird.  I’m okay with that.

I’ve never really put much thought into the appeal of that little brown guy who predicts the weather. I grew up in Northwestern Pennsylvania. Punxsutawney Phil was practically a local custom.  I understand that not everyone who grew up in my area feels that same connection or even cares, but I always did.  When I moved to Indiana at 17 for college, he kept me tied to home. That one day of the year when everyone tunes into “home” is refreshing.

Years later, I watch live coverage with my kids. I care less about the outcome than that I see it. I realize now the appeal is so much more than home. It’s about upholding a tradition much older than the town that breathes life into it.  Upholding a tradition that most of the people who witness it don’t understand.

Wanting to better understand the neo-Pagan traditions that we incorporate into our family celebrations, I did some research as we prepared for Imbolc.

Imbolc [and I don’t suggest a full understanding] means “in the belly.” Some resources claim this represents the belly of the ewe as lactating sheep are considered one of the first signs of coming sprint. Other sources – and this is the theory I prefer personally – mention the stirrings of life within the belly of the earth, before anyone can see evidence of it on the surface.

I’m a mother. Through four pregnancies, I had varying amounts of time when my condition was secret and was known only to me – as the signs of spring are known only to the earth.  Those were precious times and they stir in me a kinship with the Earth as she awakens after the cold dark winter.  I love the celebration of this time.

Similar to present customs, ancient Celts looked at the weather on February 2 to predict weather leading up to the official start of spring.  Good weather [bright sun which would cast shadows on the and “scare” wee creatures back into hiding] was considered a bad omen. Bad weather on February 2 noted an early spring.  As a child I never could get the rules straight. As an adult, I find myself explaining them a lot.

When we tune in to the morning news to find Phil’s weather prediction, we join with generations who watched hedgehogs, foxes, and snakes in ancient Ireland.

The joy that brings me touches my soul.

 

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