On February 2, will Punxsutawney Phil predict that winter will continue for six more weeks? Will the marmot in Alaska predict an end to winter is near? Will the hedgehog see his shadow underneath a clear moon?
Candlemas, the last holiday of the Christmas season, is the midpoint between winter and spring. It is also the festival of the Feast of the Purification of the Virgin Mary. During the time when Christ was born, a woman was considered “unclean” for forty days after the birth of a son and sixty days after the birth of a daughter. She was not allowed in the temple during this period. Once the time was over, she was brought into the temple and purified in a ceremony. This day celebrates the day that the Virgin Mary was purified after giving birth to Christ.
Crepe Day or La Chandeleur is the French version of Candlemas. Besides commemorating the purification of Mary, they make and eat a lot of crepes. There are many proverbs and sayings that the French have just for this day. They include “On Candlemas, winter ends or strengthens” and “Dew on Candlemas, winter at its final hour.”
Groundhog Day is a holiday I know everyone has heard of, but I still think it is one weird holiday. Probably the only reason it is known so well is that it gives everyone something to look forward to on an otherwise bleak and dreary winter day. On this day, the groundhog supposedly awakens from his winter nap, climbs to the top of his home, and takes a peek outside. If he sees his shadow (and this will always happen on a sunny day), then he turns around and goes back in his den to sleep because it means there are six more weeks of winter to endure. If he doesn’t see his shadow (and he never will see it on a cloudy day), then he plays around outside for a while because spring is just around the corner.
On this day, all eyes are on the weather-predicting groundhog in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. Will he see his shadow or won’t he? And does what he predicts matter one way or another? If he doesn’t come out of his hole, will time stop and the weather stand still as it waits for him?
Marmot Day is an Alaskan holiday. There are no groundhogs in Alaska, but there are marmots. To be honest, I had no clue what one of these animals was, but I found out that a marmot is a member of the squirrel family and very closely related to the groundhog. I wonder if this creature can predict the weather any better than a groundhog?
On Groundhog Job Shadow Day, thousands of workers will have a shadow watching them at their jobs. Who will this shadow be? It won’t be a groundhog. Instead, it will be young people who are interested in learning how to do that particular job. This is the day that allows young people to shadow a person – scientist, firefighter, paramedic, doctor, lawyer – who works in the career field that they wish to become involved in. Whatever vocation they want to learn about, this is the day to do it as long as that workplace is celebrating this holiday by participating.
February 2 is also Hedgehog Day. Did you know that the hedgehog was the animal originally used by the ancient Romans to try and predict the end of winter? Hedgehogs just aren’t indigenous to America, so he was replaced with a groundhog. There is one other difference—the Romans looked at the hedgehog by the light of the moon to see if his shadow was cast.
Imbolc is the pagan’s version of Candlemas and Groundhog Day. It marks the day that is halfway through winter and reminds us that spring is on its way.
Sled Dog Day recognizes and honors the dogs that have the tough job of running through the snow and pulling sleds that could weight hundreds, possibly thousands, of pounds. Before trains, airplanes, and cars, the determination of these dogs to carry their precious cargo, such as serum, to the places where it was so desperately needed has saved thousands of lives.
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Groundhog Day could be used to write an amusing story, or you could turn it into a mystery, a thriller, or even a romance. What would happen if Punxsutawney Phil was kidnapped? What kind of panic would ensue as they tried to locate him? Do they have a replacement groundhog hidden away just in case of such an emergency, or is Phil not so easy to replace? Does the mayor of the city receive a ransom note for him? And if he does, how does he react? Do they recover this beloved groundhog? If so, who is responsible for getting him back? If not, how do they deal with losing him?
Instead of writing a story about the infamous groundhog, you could write one about a marmot or a hedgehog. The hedgehog is supposed to see his shadow at night under the moonlight to signal the end of winter. What if one of the hedgehogs was turned into a vampire?
Sled Dog Day should give you many ideas for stories. What if a team of dogs delivered life-saving serum to a community? What kind of danger did they face? Or you could write about a specific dog that was a member of the team that did this.
What if there is a newcomer to a dogsled team? Is he easily accepted by the others? Or is there something different about him that makes his acceptance not so easy?
Dogsleds were once used to patrol western Alaska. This went on until around the time of World War II. What if the sled dogs stopped an invasion?