Groundhog Day is Wednesday, Feb. 2. We all have been so engaged in the weather forecast; it is fitting to have a holiday that will predict the length of our winter.
The weekend of Jan. 15- 7 saw our first significant winter weather in a few years. The night of the 15th began with snow showers, then maybe freezing rain, followed by more fluffy snow, and by the time we were about to jump on the sleds, it was freezing rain again…but a beautiful white covering, forcing all of us to slow down and admire the quiet.
Since Monday was the Martin Luther King holiday, many places were already closed, so the impact of the snow did not affect schools and any other place that observed the Martin Luther King holiday. But come Tuesday and Wednesday, we were over the ice!
Fast forward to Saturday, Jan. 22, and just like the movie, "Groundhog Day," we did it again! More snow and another slowdown, but by the time Sunday rolled around, most of the snow was gone.
We can trace Groundhog Day back to the Roman festival for the goddess “Februa,” which was a procession of candles on Feb. 2. The festival was repeated by the Celtic people and as Christianity was adopted, became the festival of Candlemas, when candles would be given to the townspeople and blessed by the local priests for the dark winters.
Animal behavior had been used to determine the extent of winter; when animals were observed moving about, out of hibernation, the connection was drawn to the passing of winter to spring. The Pennsylvania Dutch brought the Candlemas tradition with them and as they settled in the Northeast and incorporated the animal behavior associated with changing weather: breaking hibernation.
In Europe, the badger was the animal that was the focus. Pennsylvania Dutch found the groundhog to be an acceptable stand-in. Groundhogs or woodchucks are rodents that like to burrow. If you are a farmer, they create long underground trails that can collapse when heavy equipment or heavy livestock plunge through the burrow causing damage or death to the animal. When they emerge after their winter’s hibernation, they are hungry and eat lots of plants, maybe to the detriment of that farmer.
"Groundhog Day," the movie, with Andie McDowell (who was born in Gaffney, South Carolina and had lived in Asheville for a while) and Bill Murray, tells the story of a news reporter sent to Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, to cover that year’s magical event.
Suffice it to say that Bill’s character is not impressed with this small town and their celebration; his attitude is condescending; he sleeps that night only to find that he is reliving this day over and over. Each time the day repeats, he slowly changes something about his behavior until he’s a changed person and relatively nice! Today, we all use the term “Groundhog Day” as a metaphor for recurring events.
And as this is written, we are looking at a possible winter storm once again finding us between the low pressures coming from the South and Artic air coming out of Canada! Remember what you learned on the first go-round of winter weather and travel. Be prepared and keep an eye out for your neighbors.
With the potential for icy conditions, Gaston County will again prioritize clearings of parking lots and access to facilities; NCDOT will care for major roads. It is up to us to avoid any unnecessary travel and allow our emergency personnel to deal with true issues and not unnecessary vehicle wrecks.
Nan Kirlin is recycling coordinator for Gaston County.
This article originally appeared on The Gaston Gazette: Groundhog Day is coming to Gaston County