February 2, 2012

Virgin Mary vs. Groundhog Day vs. Pema Chodron.

The traditional date for Groundhog day is February 2, which, coincidentally, is today.

Groundhog Day is a North American tradition, based on a belief that on this day the groundhog comes out of its hole after winter hibernation to look for its shadow. If it’s a sunny day the groundhog sees a shadow which then leads to the belief that there will be six more weeks of bad weather. If it’s cloudy, no shadow, early spring.

Most of us probably knew that stuff,but did you know that Groundhog day owes its origin to the European tradition of Candlemas? In older times in Europe the belief was that on February 2, known as Candelmas, a sunny day would mean six more weeks of winter.

During Candelmas candles that were used for rituals including the purification of the Virgin Mary, were blessed on this date. It was the German culture that started the tradition of groundhog day but they may have called it hedgehog day instead. As America came to be settled with folks from Germany the traditions moved with them. Groundhog day became an official celebration in 1880 in Punxsutawney, PA.

So, why does this matter? The realization that some people may hold this tradition as a truism led me to ponder the notion of control in the human life.

Waiting for a groundhog to predict the weather pattern for the next six weeks and believing that to be true seems, well,in my humble opinion, kinda stupid. I mean really what happens if, for example, the groundhog comes out, sees no shadow and everybody says “yay early spring” and then, because of that, someone decides to go on a trip expecting great weather which doesn’t happen? Would there be a lawsuit?  Would the groundhogs be liable?

There might be another way to look at this.

What about the whole “in-between state” mentioned by Pema Chodron in The Places That Scare You. “We aren’t told all that much about this state of being in-between, no longer able to get our old comfort from the outside but not dwelling in a continual sense of equanimity and warmth.”

“Anxiety, heartbreak and tenderness mark the in-between state”….”yet it seems reasonable to want some kind of relief” which is where, I suppose, the tradition of rituals like Candelmas and Groundhog day come into play.

Personally it won’t matter to me what happens on groundhog day, shadow, no shadow, I hold a bigger truth with the belief that it’s best not to get attached to results like this unless you’re prepared for the disappointment that may follow.

Me? I live my life moment by moment and that’s just fine with me.

Happy groundhog day!

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