Monday, February 02, 2009

Today is Groundhog's day!

Today(a beautiful sunny day in California) indeed is Groundhog's day and unfortunately, the report is not good: Good old "Phil" has seen his shadow and that means (according to tradition) that there will be another six weeks of winter. Of course, In California, we just about laugh at that one, but for my dear friend Tony Westbrook in NYC that bad news might be a little more disconcerting. I'm sure he misses the weather here if nothing else. Groundhog Day --which in French is Jour de la marmotte) is an annual holiday celebrated on February 2 in the United States and Canada on which if a groundhog emerges from its burrow and fails to see its shadow because the weather is cloudy, winter will soon end. If on the other hand, it is sunny and the groundhog sees its shadow, the groundhog will supposedly retreat into its burrow, and winter will continue for six more weeks. The holiday, which began as a Pennsylvania German custom in southeastern and central Pennsylvania in the 18th and 19th centuries, has its origins in ancient European weather lore, wherein a badger or sacred bear is the prognosticator as opposed to a groundhog. The holiday also bears some similarities to the medieval Catholic holiday of Candlemas. It also bears similarities to the Pagan festival of Imbolc, the seasonal turning point of the Celtic year, which is celebrated on February 1 and also involves weather prognostication.Modern customs of the holiday involve celebrations where early morning festivals are held to watch the groundhog emerging from its burrow. In southeastern Pennsylvania, Groundhog Lodges (Grundsow Lodges) celebrate the holiday with fersommlinge, social events in which food is served, speeches are made, and one or more g'spiel (plays or skits) are performed for entertainment. The Pennsylvania German dialect is the only language spoken at the event, and those who speak English pay a penalty, usually in the form of a nickel, dime or quarter, per word spoken, put into a bowl in the center of the table.The largest Groundhog Day celebration is held in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, where crowds as high as 40,000 have gathered to celebrate the holiday since at least 1886. Other celebrations of note in Pennsylvania take place in Quarryville in Lancaster County,he Anthracite Region of Schuylkill County,the Sinnamahoning Valleyand Bucks County.
Groundhog Day received worldwide attention as a result of the 1993 film of the same name, Groundhog Day, which was set in Punxsutawney and featured Punxsutawney Phil. Today is also the feast of Saint Blaze: the patron saint of singers and speakers. When I was a kid, we used to go to mass and afterwards there was a ceremony in which two candles were placed on either sides of our throat and a blessing on our throats were made. I still remember that. And to think just how many singers I deal with every day. John Nugent is busy orchestrating all the dongs from "The Runaway Heart" and "Broadway Angels:--it's quite a project!

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