February brings out the groundhog in all of us

Published 10:04 am Sunday, February 3, 2013

If the rest of 2013 passes as fast as January, we will be Christmas shopping again in the blink of an eye! As we get older, time definitely seems to pass much faster, but I have heard a lot of much younger people talking about how fast the month has flown!

Now history, January has been a mystifying month, with many days feeling like early spring, along with a lot of rain, which is also spring-like. I see beautiful purple magnolias blooming everywhere, brightening up an otherwise drab winter landscape.

Usually if we see snow during the winter, it will arrive in early January, but apparently not this year! However, it still isn’t too late if the strange weather patterns permit, but let’s hope not. I much prefer the nice days when the temperature is in the low 70s.

Enter February, which is usually a very cold month in Louisiana, but who knows what kind of weather this month will bring. One of the joys of living in the south is that the weather is constantly changing and bringing surprises to us, some good and some not so great!

February usually is a very busy month and this year is no exception. The month started it on Friday, with Groundhog Day yesterday ¬ one of the strangest events of the year. Just how many people really believe the start of spring can be predicted by an animal? Punxsutawney Phil appears year after year with cameras following and national coverage!

According to folklore, Phil’s sighting of his own shadow means there will be six more weeks of winter. If Phil didn’t see his shadow, it would mean an early spring. Since I am writing this earlier, I have no idea if the old boy saw his shadow this year and what it has to do with the weather, but I am hopeful for an early spring anyway.

It seems backward to me. If he sees his shadow, the sun is out and spring is approaching. If he didn’t, it would mean it is gloomy and drab — like winter and it would continue. However, my opinion has not been asked.

Just how would a groundhog know if he cast a shadow? He doesn’t look very smart and I don’t think he sees well either! I suppose it doesn’t matter if he knows as long as the observers see it!

Since his first prediction in 1887, Phil has seen his shadow 99 times and failed to see it just 16 times. There are nine missing years in the official record, but apparently Phil did his job; somebody just forgot to write it down.

What criteria do you think they use to select a new Phil when the current one gasps his last breath? There is no record for how many groundhogs have held the name Phil or how long groundhogs live, but there must have been quite a few.

The official website of Punxsutawney Phil claims the groundhog has given a correct forecast 100 percent of the time. However, I think they might tend to be a little prejudiced. On Phil’s website, one can order just about anything dealing with Groundhog Day, including a “I Was Born on Groundhog Day” and other T-shirts, a groundhog-shaped cookie cutter, an official Punxsutawney Phil coloring book, tote bags, a groundhog paw stamp and of course, official mugs, plates and silver spoons, among other things!

February will also see both Mardi Gras and Abraham Lincoln’s birthday on Tuesday, Feb. 12. I wonder how many times Mardi Gras has coincided with Lincoln’s birthday. In the same week Valentine’s Day is on Thursday and Susan B. Anthony’s birthday on Friday. On Monday, Feb. 18, President’s Day will be observed and George Washington’s real birthday is on Feb. 22.

Mardi Gras is in full swing both in New Orleans and locally and the Super Bowl today is highly anticipated by football fans and merchants in New Orleans and the entire surrounding area. I don’t remember any other year when these two events were so close. Both are very high profile events with a lot of people, planning and work involved.

So in February one doesn’t know whether to wear a Mardi Gras T-shirt and beads, or one for Valentine’s Day for their love, a patriotic one for the Presidents, a Super Bowl tee or one for good old Punxsutawney Phil.

Looks like it is going to be a wild month. Thankfully, it is a short one!

Retired Lifestyle Editor Bob Ann Breland, a resident of Pine, writes a weekly column and may be contacted at bobann_b@yahoo.com.