February 2nd, 2012

Happy Groundhog Day!

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Pennsylvania’s most famous prognosticating rodent, Punxsutawney Phil, today predicted six more weeks of winter. Phil and his cousins have been helping meteorologists since at least 1886, but the tradition of using animals to predict when spring will come is much older, dating back to pre-Christian Europe. This day marks the height of European winter, when farmers would begin anxiously scanning the environment for signs that spring was on its way. In Europe, hedgehogs or badgers were often enlisted as forecasters. When Pennsylvania German farmers brought the custom with them to America in the 18th century, they nominated the groundhog as the most intelligent candidate for the job.

In 1934, Groundhog Day took on new significance, since that was the date of the first Fersommlung (gathering) of the Grundsow Lodge Nummer Ains on da Lechaw (Groundhog Lodge Number One on the Lehigh [River]), in Allentown, Pennsylvania. It was the first of 17 lodges founded by Pennsylvania Germans as a way of preserving their language and culture. At their annual gatherings, which continue today, members pay a penalty for every English word that is spoken. Poems, songs, and skits are performed in the Pennsylvania German language. Lots and lots of food is consumed.

Here are two program covers from Grundsow Lodge gatherings that I found in my archives. Enjoy!

Cover of program for the fifth annual meeting of Grundsow Lodge Number One in Allentown, Pennsylvania, February 3, 1938. The holiday coincides with the Christian feast day of Candlemas, during which a candlelight procession occurred—hence the candle in this drawing.

Cover of program for the fifth annual meeting of Grundsow Lodge Number One in Allentown, Pennsylvania, February 3, 1938. The holiday coincides with the Christian feast day of Candlemas, during which a candlelight procession occurred—hence the candle in this drawing.

Cover of the program for the 12th annual Grundsow Lodge gathering in 1948 (a few years were skipped during WWII). The drawing is by Bud Tamblyn, an editorial cartoonist for the Allentown Morning Call newspaper.

Cover of the program for the 12th annual Grundsow Lodge gathering in 1948 (it would have been the 15th, if WWII had not intervened). The drawing is by William Richard “Bud” Tamblyn, a nationally renowned editorial cartoonist for the Allentown Morning Call newspaper.

The insignia of Grundsow Lodge #1 as of 1948

The insignia of Grundsow Lodge #1 as of 1948

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