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Not Just Another Ground Hog Day: By Author Julia McDermott

Not Just Another Ground Hog Day:  By Author Julia McDermott

Groundhog Day: 02/02/2020

You may have heard that Pennsylvania’s famous groundhog, “Punxsutawney Phil,” did NOT see his shadow early this morning. According to a tradition originating in a German legend, that means we won’t have another six weeks of winter. Since he doesn’t see it, Phil isn’t scared of his shadow, so he doesn’t retreat to his cave (kind of a double negative, if you will). Even though spring doesn’t officially begin until the spring equinox (this year, on March 19), crowds cheered his declaration today that “Spring will be early, it’s a certainty.” With so much turmoil and tragedy in the world recently, the unusual expectation (or maybe, the strong hope) of warm weather sooner, rather just on time, is welcome.

Today reminds me of more than seeing shadows, or of the prospect of another month and a half of cold, windy days (not to mention the rare snowfall). The first person who explained Groundhog Day to me (and insisted I take it seriously) was my grandmother. For her it was more than tradition; it was superstition, and one that you best not discount, for some reason. So, when the groundhog didn’t see his shadow – and, let’s face it, he normally did – I counted on at least one warm sunny February weekend when I could sunbathe on the patio. I usually wasn’t disappointed, but this is Atlanta, after all.

Another thing today brings to my mind is the 1993 movie Groundhog Day starring Bill Murray and Andie MacDowell. I’ve seen it many times, and if you haven’t, you’ve missed a witty, delightful and poignant story told in a well-done film. Take an unlikely romance, add the downside of daily routine, drop in a time loop, and fold in a man who learns the hard way how to woo a woman, and… well, watch this movie and you’ll see.

Finally, another way to mark this day is by doing what the French do: eat some crêpes. February 2 is La Chandeleur in France (“Candlemas” in English), the religious celebration of the presentation of Jesus at the Temple 40 days after his birth. Derived from pagan, Celtic and catholic influences, it’s named for a pagan harvest ritual. Flipping and eating crêpes are the things to do today in France, and the day has its own French superstitions regarding not just weather, but luck and prosperity. However, one French proverb mirrors our tradition:

 “À la Chandeleur, l’hiver cesse ou reprend vigueur
(On Candlemas, winter ends or gets worse.)”

So before you watch today’s matchup of the Kansas City Chiefs vs. the San Francisco 49ers in sunny Miami for the Super Bowl, google La Chandeleur, mix up some batter, and flip some crêpes!

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