Something about Mary: Groundhog Day's roots run deep

Something about Mary: Groundhog Day's roots run deep

CLEVELAND, OH (WOIO) - As we celebrate one of our country's most treasured national events on Feb. 2, I hope you enjoy all the "super festivities" associated with this year's long-awaited Groundhog Day.

Despite the prognostications of Punxsutawney Phil, there is no way that any of our local marmots will see their shadows tomorrow, so I'm keeping my fingers crossed for an early spring.

In fact, as February makes its debut, our 90-day outlook (through April) has us expecting equal chances of temperatures that are either above or below "normal" with above "normal" precipitation, according to the National Weather Service.

Reality: It's anybody's guess what the long-term weather will hold.

Here are a few fun facts about February from Atmosphere Adventures:

Groundhog Day has its roots in Judeo-Christian history!

Feb. 2 occurs 40 days after Christmas and is known as "Candlemas."

It celebrates the day that the Virgin Mary went to the temple "to be purified" after the birth of Jesus.

According to Mosaic law, a mother who had given birth to a man-child was considered unclean for seven days; moreover, she was to remain three and 30 days "in the blood of her purification".

When 40 days was over, the mother was to "bring to the temple a lamb and a young pigeon or turtle dove for sin."

If she was not able to offer a lamb, she was to take two turtle doves or two pigeons. The priest prayed for her, and so she was cleansed (Leviticus 12:2-8).

Variations on old, European Candlemas couplets predicting winter's end include:

If Candlemas Day is bright and clear,
There'll be two winters in the year.

And If Candlemas brings clouds and rain,
Winter will not come again.

Thus, if the groundhog sees his shadow, we'll see six more weeks of winter, and if he doesn't, spring arrives early.

Thanks to Earth's 23-and-a-half-degree tilt on its axis, we gain 66 minutes of daylight in February.

Beginning today, we now enjoy more than 10 hours of daylight (but rarely sunshine) every day.

Naturalists tell us that beginning in the first week of February, spring starts creeping northward from Florida's everglades at the rate of about 15 miles a day. That said, Ohio ranks 13th in the nation for February tornadoes as the weather pendulum swings.

And remember, we're less than a fortnight away from the one day of the year that every jeweler, florist and candy maker counts on to generate guilt-driven revenue, i.e., Valentine's Day.

Speaking of Valentine's Day, did you know that it wasn't until 1537 that Valentine's Day was made an official holiday? Ironically, it was England's King Henry VIII -- famous for the creative measures he employed in disposing of his wives -- who declared Valentine's Day an official holiday.

Valentine's Day is named for a Christian priest who, in the 3rd century, performed secret marriages for soldiers and their sweethearts when Roman Emperor Claudius II believed that single men made better fighters.

For this, Valentine was imprisoned and executed on Feb. 14, 270.

It was believed that he was responsible for healing his jailer's blind daughter and, before his execution, he sent her a note signed "From your Valentine."

Most of our nation's official weather records only go back to 1871 because it was not until Feb. 9, 1870 that President Ulysses S. Grant signed a measure to establish a federal meteorological service later known as the U.S. Weather Bureau.

Twenty-nine years and a day later, on Feb. 10, 1899, Ohio experienced the coldest temp ever recorded in the state when at Milligan (in Perry County) the mercury plunged to minus 39 degrees.

Just to put that into perspective, mercury freezes at a temp of minus 40°. (Cleveland's all-time record low is a mere minus 20° F.)

Finally, a little Groundhog Day movie trivia.

As we celebrate its silver anniversary, how many scenes in the 1993 movie, "Groundhog Day" were actually shot in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania?  (By the way, Punxsutawney Phil will be 127 years old this year!)

A. Almost the whole movie

B. Just the "Gobler's Knob" scenes

C. Only 7 (All shot in just two days)

D. None

If you guessed, D, not a one -- you're right!

The movie was shot almost entirely in Woodstock, Illinois, not too far from the Chicago headquarters of director, Harold Ramos.

If you'd like to learn more about the wonders of weather, please check out our ATMOSPHERE ADVENTURES website.

Copyright 2018 WOIO. All rights reserved.