Life Day 25041: “The Shadow Knows”

February 2, 2016 at 12:01 am | Posted in Today's Reasons To Celebrate | Leave a comment

Good morning fans of weather prognosticating vermin. Today is February 2nd. I’m sure that many of you were glued to your TV sets this morning anxiously awaiting the news…not of the result of the Iowa Caucuses, but rather from Punxsutawney, PA about the impending advent of Spring. Yes, today’s first “holiday” is Groundhog Day, once again. According to folklore, if the groundhog emerges from hibernation and does not see his shadow, he will leave his burrow. This signifies that the end of winter is near. On the other hand, if the groundhog sees his shadow, he will retreat back into his burrow and winter will continue for at least another six weeks. So, if Punxsutawney Phil sees his shadow it means that there will be about 6 more weeks of winter. (If he doesn’t see his shadow, it means that spring will arrive in about a month and a half). This prognosticating rodent tradition began as Hedgehog Day in England. Early settlers brought the tradition across the Atlantic, but as it turns out, there were no hedgehogs in America, so they had to settle on the lowly groundhog. To make matters worse, our groundhogs apparently sleep later than their hedgehogs, so when it comes time for the big day in Punxsutawney we have to nudge Phil awake to tell us whether we’ll have 6 more weeks of winter. Statistically, Phil sees his shadow about 9 out of 10 times. I personally place little veracity in the ability of burrowing vermin to accurately predict future climatological conditions.

A related holiday today is Hedgehog Day. While we all look forward to Groundhog Day on February 2nd and the forecast for an early spring from the two greatest weather-hogs on the planet – Wiarton Willie in Wiarton, Ontario and Punxsutawney Phil in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, the truth behind this tradition is oftentimes forgotten.
Long before the advent of Groundhog Day on February 2nd,  the Romans observed a similar event thousands of years ago on the exact same day. Rather than use the North American groundhog, the Romans used the hedgehog.“If during hibernation, he (the hedgehog) looks out of his den on 2nd February and sees his shadow it means there is a clear moon and six more weeks of winter so he returns to his burrow.The only difference between this ancient event and the present day version (aside from the hedgehog, of course) is the fact that the Romans would look to see if the hedgehog saw its shadow under a clear moon at night.
Here in North America, where we have no indigenous species of hedgehog, we replaced the hedgehog with the native groundhog.To this day, Punxsutawney Phil and Wiarton Willie battle it out to see who is the better weather forecaster, but little do they or their handlers know that the original prognosticator of spring was a hedgehog.

Another “holiday” related to Groundhog Day is Candlemas. Candlemas is the day that is the midpoint between winter and spring. It too predicts the time of the onset of spring, but without the prognosticating rodents. It was brought here by German immigrants. A popular Candlemas poem is:
If Candlemas be fair and bright,
Winter has another flight.
If Candlemas brings clouds and rain,
Winter will not come again.

The fourth “holiday” today is Marmot Day. Marmot Day is an Alaskan holiday established to celebrate marmots and Alaskan culture. Although local festivals have been part and parcel of frontier life for decades, Marmot Day became an official holiday on April 18, 2009, when the 26th Alaska State Legislature officially passed Senate Bill 58. Marmot Day is celebrated on February 2, replacing Groundhog Day with a holiday honoring Alaska’s marmots. From Juneau to Anchorage to Fairbanks, and all the cities in between, Marmot Day has become an Alaskan institution.
Author’s Note: [Marmot Day is also the name of a community celebration in Owosso, Michigan, occurring on July 25 (or on the following Monday if the 25th falls on a weekend). It is a celebration of all marmots, which include groundhogs, woodchucks, and ground squirrels. Marmot Day was first celebrated in Owosso in 2002 as a day celebrating all marmots. A luncheon is traditional as part of the celebration, marmot jokes are shared, among other festivities typical of party celebrations. In a sort of reverse Groundhog Day, at 12:45 PM, a marmot is positioned outside its hole, and if it goes into its hole, legend has it that summer is over; if it does not go into its hole, there will be one more month of summer].

Well, this is certainly a day to celebrate animals. The fifth holiday today is Sled Dog Day. One of sled dogs’ most impressive achievements was the 1925 serum run from Nome to Nenana. With diphtheria threatening the lives of people in Nome and the serum needed being 700 miles away in the town of Nenana, hundreds of people may have died if not for the 20 dogsled teams that worked together to relay the serum to Nome. In the end, the serum reached Nome in only 6 days, saving the lives of many. February 2nd is celebrated annually as Sled Dog Day, honoring the date the serum run arrived in Nome, as well as all other sled dog heroes, both known and unsung.
Sled dogs have been a part of human society since the 10th century and share a noble part of history in North America and Europe. The Iditarod Sled Dog race, held annually in Alaska, covers 1161 miles from Willow, AK (outside of Anchorage) to Nome. Teams are typically comprised of 16 dogs who work in partnership with their musher. Sled dogs are typically Alaskan Malamutes, West Greenland Huskies, East Greenland Huskies, Mackenzie River Huskies, and Greenland Dogs, although a wide range of dogs has been used in sled races, from poodles to mixed breeds.

Yet another “holiday” today is Play Your Ukulele Day. Play Your Ukulele Day was first celebrated in 2011. Since its creation, this holiday is celebrated all around the world under the slogan “bring the world together, four strings at a time”.
The ukulele is a four-stringed instrument that was first popularized in Hawaii in the late 19th century. The instrument was a version of the machete, a four-stringed instrument native to the Madeira region of in the Portugal. It is thought that the ukulele was created by Portuguese immigrants to Hawaii. The ukulele found its way to mainland United States in the early 20th century, where it became an important instrument in the jazz music and dance scene during the 1920s. It fell out of favor as the instrument of choice for musicians until the early 2000s, when the proliferation of online music and instructional videos made the ukulele a popular musical instrument again. If you already know how to play the ukulele celebrate this holiday by entertaining your friends and family. If you don’t already know how to play, what better day to make the commitment to learn.
Author’s Note: The word ukulele in Hawaiian means jumping flea. It is thought that the instrument was so named because of the way the players fingers jumped around the strings.

The last “holiday” is World Wetlands Day. World Wetlands Day was celebrated for the first time in 1997 to commemorate the signing of the Convention on Wetlands, called the Ramsar Convention, on 2 February 1971, in Ramsar, Iran on the shores of the Caspian Sea. Myriad species of flora and fauna need wetlands in order to exist and thrive. Many parts of the world are at risk of being over-developed; at the expense of  out wetlands and the creatures who inhabit them. World Wetlands Day is a day to appreciate, preserve, and raise public awareness about the importance and value of one of our most valuable natural resources..

The food-related “holiday” is Heavenly Hash Day. But which Heavenly Hash? This sweet, fruity and marshmallowy concoction has been made into ice cream, fudge, brownies, candy, and even cake. There is also a fruit salad version. The fruit salad version is popular in the south around Christmas. The recipe consists of red maraschino cherries, green grapes, pecans and other ingredients folded into whipped cream, but you can use almost any fruits and nuts you want to “make it your own. The “sweet treat” versions are as follows:
A sweet, fudgy chocolate candy, made of marshmallows, evaporated milk and chocolate chips (which are melted to form the candy base), chopped nuts, corn syrup and sugar.
A cookie version, folding miniature marshmallows, chopped nuts and coconut in a chocolate cookie dough.
A chocolate cake version similar to the cookie version, but in cake form.
An ice cream version: chocolate ice cream with a marshmallow swirl, chopped nuts and chocolate chunks (or, layer the ingredients with chocolate ice cream, parfait-style).
Fudge version with miniature marshmallows and nuts.
So enjoy Heavenly Hash Day your style, with one of the ideas above; or freestyle it to create something new.

Another food-related “holiday” today is California Kiwifruit Day. This time of year, decent oranges and bananas are hard to find, and a bit pricey…but kiwifruit is in season and plentiful. A serving of two medium kiwifruits has about twice the vitamin C of an orange and more potassium than a banana. In fact, a recent study by Rutgers University found kiwi to be the most nutrient-dense of the 27 most popular fruits. Bite for bite, it provides the greatest concentration of protein, vitamin A, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, folate, vitamin C, calcium, and iron. Kiwifruit’s also a good source of fiber, magnesium and vitamin E, which is hard to find without fat. There are more than 400 kiwifruit growers in California, and their kiwifruit production represents about one-third of all the fresh kiwifruit supplies in the America during the season.

On this date in 1848 – the Mexican War was ended with the signing of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo. The treaty turned over portions of land to the U.S., including Texas, New Mexico, Nevada, Utah, Arizona, California and parts of Colorado and Wyoming. The U.S. gave Mexico $15,000,000 and assumed responsibility for all claims against Mexico by American citizens. Texas had already entered the U.S. on December 29, 1845.

Other significant historical events which happened on this date are:

  • In 1653 – New Amsterdam, now known as New York City, was incorporated.
  • In 1802 – The first leopard to be exhibited in the United States was shown by Othello Pollard in Boston, MA.
  • In 1863 – Samuel Langhorne Clemens used a pseudonym for the first time. He is better remembered by the pseudonym which is Mark Twain.
  • In 1876 – The  National League of Professional Base Ball Clubs (known as the National League) was formed in New York. The teams included were the Chicago White Stockings, Philadelphia Athletics, Boston Red Stockings, Hartford Dark Blues, Mutual of New York, St. Louis Brown Stockings, Cincinnati Red Stockings and the Louisville Grays.
  • In 1887 – The beginning of Groundhog Day in Punxsutawney, PA.
  • In 1892 – William Painter patented the crown-cork bottle cap.
  • In 1893 – the Edison Studio in West Orange, NJ, made history when they filmed the first motion picture close-up. The studio was owned and operated by Thomas Edison.
  • In 1913 – Grand Central Terminal officially opened at 12:01 a.m. Even though construction was not entirely complete more than 150,000 people visited the new terminal on its opening day.
  • In 1935, Leonard Keeler conducted the first test of the polygraph machine, in Portage, WI.
  • In 1945 – President Roosevelt and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill left for a summit in Yalta with Soviet leader Josef Stalin.
  • In 1950 – “What’s My Line” debuted on CBS television.
  • In 1980 – The situation known as “Abscam” began when reports surfaced that the FBI had conducted a sting operation that targeted members of the U.S. Congress. Phony Arab businessmen were used in the operation.
  • And, in 2004 – It  was reported that a white powder had been found in an office of Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist. The CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) later confirmed that the powder was the poison ricin.

If you were born on this date, you share a birthday with the following notables:
James Joyce, 1882 – Novelist/poet.
Charles Correll, 1890 – Amos and Andy.
George Halas, 1895 – NFL (Chicago Bears).
Jascha Heifetz, 1901 – Violinist.
Ayn Rand, 1905 – Novelist.
Gale Gordon, 1906 – Character actor.
Stan Getz, 1927 – Jazz saxophonist.
Robert Mandan, 1932 – Actor.
Tom Smothers, 1937 – The Smothers Brothers.
Bo Hopkins, 1942 – Actor.
Graham Nash, 1942 – The Hollies/ Crosby, Stills, Nash.
Farrah Fawcett, 1947 – Charlie’s Angels.
Brent Spiner, 1949 –  “Lieutenant Commander Data”.
And finally, Christie Brinkley, 1954 – Supermodel.

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