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!
I love snow! The 11-inch blanket of snow that coated everything in the Lehigh Valley this morning was just wet enough not to blow off of objects but just dry enough not to pack down—which made for some sculptural-looking forms in my neighbors’ yards.
Here’s how the pine tree outside my kitchen window looked at 7 a.m.:
A chemist may be able to explain what keeps the snow from collapsing; as a nonchemist, I just appreciate its beauty:
Each lantern wears its own jaunty little cap:
The snow clung like shaving cream to the picket fence…
…and the boughs of a white pine.
And bird feeders were transformed into wedding cakes:
Did I say that I love snow?