Celebrating the Divinely-Inspired Groundhog
Held every year on February 2, Groundhog Day is one of the most misunderstood holidays, and so is the small but mighty groundhog. Here’s how it goes: if the groundhog sees its shadow on that day, lore has it there will be only six more weeks of winter; if not, it may be cold much longer. It’s even become a joke – either six more weeks of winter or six weeks until spring.
But it all started in the Bible, and it was no joke.
When fourth century churchmen declared that the nativity of Jesus was to be celebrated on Dec. 25, a festival evolved to celebrate His presentation at the Temple on Feb. 2., known as Candlemas – an important but often overlooked religious day for blessing the candles that would be used throughout the year.
The weather on Candlemas was a signal from God – a predictor for how much longer winter would last, and of course everyone noticed which of God’s little creatures were out and about: small ground-dwelling mammals. More active animals were a good indicator that they would be blessed with mild weather and could begin planting.
But can groundhogs really predict the weather? Here are the facts:
- They cannot actually see their own shadow.
They would think it is just another groundhog. Most animals are literally incapable of recognizing their own shadow.
- They are the most predictable true hibernators.
A true hibernator can survive with a sustained reduction in metabolism, breathing, heart rate, and lowered body temperature – like being in a coma, and then gradually let it all rise as if waking up from a deep sleep. A groundhog’s heart rate goes from 80 bpm to 4bpm, and it only takes 2 breaths per minute, for 3 months.
- They build expansive multi-level homes.
A groundhog’s burrow is on average 60 feet long, with multiple exits and secret chambers with stored food. Burrow’s have multiple stories each with a different purpose. They even have a separate chamber for bathrooms.
- Their survival depends on predicting the weather.
Groundhog males poke their heads out in early February to claim their territory and prepare for mating season. They wake up earlier than other hibernators, so their bodies can sense a rise in temperature from underground in the soil surrounding them. They need to get ahead-start on surveying potential dangers in the idea, securing their burrows, and making house calls to local females to wake them up. If their offspring are born too late, they won’t have enough time to put on enough weight to survive the next winter.
Hence, groundhogs may not be able to predict the weather with the accuracy of a scientist, but they are truly blessed by God. Let us take us moment to appreciate the Creator of both the weather and the animals who “predict it”.