Everyone knows what it means when a groundhog peeps out of his burrow, on February 2nd, and sees his shadow.
- When it’s a sunny day, and the (by now) infamous critter sees his shadow, it means 6 more weeks of winter.
- When it’s a cloudy day, and the groundhog does not see his shadow, Spring will arrive early (before the vernal equinox).
So, we’ve got stories and poems about the epic February event.
“If Candlemas be fair and bright,
Winter has another flight.
If Candlemas brings clouds and rain,
Winter will not come again.”
The tradition has become a bit diversified over the years, with Alaska celebrating Marmot Day, Nevada highlighting the desert tortoise (with Mojave Max) and New Orleans puts some focus on their “Cajun Groundhog Day” (with Claude the Cajun Crawfish and T-Boy the Nutria river rate).
In Serbia, similar folklore for Candlemas on February 15 involves a bear (instead of a groundhog), but a shadow in that case means 40 days of winter.
Of course, these animal stories, folklore and traditions are all part of a much more elaborate series of stories and legends that involve animals and the seasons from around the world. Through the myriad of myths, we read how animals can predict the future: death, tsunamis, and earthquakes. Even beyond that, other animals (and insects like the caterpillar) predict the change in weather. We’ve all come to know and love animals who can assist us in ways we likely wouldn’t have imagined as we read our fairy tales.
It’s probably not so surprising, after all, that we have stories of the wise critter who assisted our heroes/heroines in discovering the path he/she needed to travel.