Mississippi Moment: Groundhog Day

Mississippi Moment

JACKSON, Miss. (WJTV) – Did you ever wonder how Groundhog Day came to be? Well, surprisingly, it has roots that go way back into Celtic rituals, long before the inner circle ever held their first ceremony at Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania.

A thousand years ago, they had a two-day ceremony. Halfway between the winter solstice and the spring equinox called Imbolc. About February first and second. Well, similar rituals spread all across Europe and, you know,  when the pagan’s had a good ritual, they did not give them up when they became Christians. So, Imbolc became Candlemas​ when the priest would bless the household candles.  Somehow in Germany, badgers got involved and predicted how the weather would be for the rest of winter by whether they saw their shadow or not on Candlemas Day. When German immigrants settled in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, they started using the groundhog as their weather predictor instead of a badger. In 1887, a newspaper editor enlisted the group of some of the townsmen to start a ritual of officially checking whether Punxsutawney Phill saw his shadow as he emerged from his burrow atop gobblers knob.

To tie this back into Mississippi, my friend Gordon Cotton in Vicksburg told me a story about a funeral director Charles Riles handling a burial about this time of year up in the delta. it was a cremation and as Charles was stooping over to place the urn in the ground, he accidently slipped and fell into the grave. All Charles wanted was some sympathy from Gordon when he told him about it. But all Gordon could think of was to ask was, ‘Well, did you see your shadow when you climbed out?’ 

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