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Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Groundhog Day

Punxsutawney Phil didn't see his shadow, and so even though we're having one of the worst winter storms in this country's history, spring is just around the corner!
Okay. So, no, groundhogs don't predict the weather. And yes, astronomically speaking, the vernal equinox is always six weeks after the beginning of February. And no, the weather in Punxsutawney (wherever the hell that is) has little or no bearing on the weather anywhere else in the country, or the world. 

But Groundhog Day is not entirely without basis. It's just that the basis doesn't have anything to do with groundhogs. 

"Groundhog Day" is the Americanization (meaning, in this case, the Protestantisation) of the Festival of Brigid, or St Brigid's Day, or Lady Day, or Imbolg, or Oimelc, or Candlemas. It's a celebration of early spring, or at least the part of late winter when the lambs are being born and the buds are coming on the trees. St Brigid, and the goddess Bride (pronounced BREET-chuh) before her, was the matron of poetry, fire, healing, blacksmithing and maidens. It's an Irish thing. The weather rhyme which accompanied the holiday, at least the version of it I learned, went something like this:

If Lady Day be fair and bright,
Winter will have another flight,
But if it be dark with clouds and rain,
Winter is gone, and will not come again.

I found a version on line which substitutes "Candlemas", but it's the same thing.
St Brigid of Kildare
Now, different climates have different weather patterns. But Ireland's west coast maritime climate, fed by the Gulf Stream, is similar in very many respects to Cascadia's. If  "Lady Day be fair and bright", it would tend to indicate that a stationary high was still set up over the northeastern Atlantic, and that the winter weather patterns would remain stable for some time to come. But "if it be dark with clouds and rain", the stationary high has destabilized and has been overrun by the serial occluded fronts which indicate that regionally, warmer and wetter weather is at hand.

In Seattle today and yesterday it was clear and cold, which per the rhyme would indicate that cold air would continue to dominate for the next month or so. We'll see.

By the way, my original intent with this post was to publish it around 8am this morning, and then periodically republish it throughout the day with very subtle changes. I thought it was funny, maybe you would have too. But reality intervened against obscure movie references, so I'm only posting it once. Oh well.

Happy Groundhog Day, and Happy Brigid!

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