Ad-Express and Daily Iowegian, Centerville, IA


February 8, 2013

Ground Hog Day traditions around the world

CENTERVILLE — It was nice we had warmer temperatures this week that melted the ice and snow again that we had.

The recipe this week, is one that is a twist on an old favorite. It sounds kind of different. It is called:


Cheeseburger Pockets


½ lb. ground beef

1 Tb. chopped onion

½ tsp. pepper

1 tube (12 oz.) refrigerated buttermilk biscuits

5 slices of American cheese



In a large skillet, cook the beef, onion and pepper over medium heat until the meat is no longer pink inside. Drain and cool.

Place two biscuits overlapping on a floured surface and roll out into a five inch oval. Place bout ¼ cup of the meat mixture on one side.   Fold a cheese slice, to fit over the meat mixture.

Then, fold the dough over the filling and press the edges with a fork to seal. Repeat with the remaining biscuits, meat mixture and cheese, four more times.

Place on greased baking sheet. Prick the tops of the dough with a fork. Bake in a pre-heated oven set at 400 degrees for 10 minutes, or until golden brown. This will yield five Cheeseburger Pockets in all.

 Well, I do not know if you heard or not, but last Saturday, on February 2nd, the Groundhog did not see his shadow. So, according to tradition, there will be an early spring this year.   Groundhog Day, descends from an old custom at the changing of two seasons, to mark the end of winter and the beginning of spring. Long ago, they called this special day Candle-mas.

In ancient times, they noted the change of the season  when daylight becomes more prominent and over takes the long winter nights. This was known as Imbue, an old Pagan festival. It was part of the Celtic calendar when they celebrated on Feb. 1, which involved predicting the weather from that date until St. Swithin’s Day, which occurs on July 15.  

Old European weather lore, utilized a sacred bear or badger to predict the weather. It then became associated with the Hedgehog or Groundhog, which is actually a rodent and a member of the ground squirrel family.

An old poem from Scotland referred to this as: If Candle-mas Day is bright and clear, there'll be two winters in the year.

The English had a similar tale: If Candle-mas be fair and bright, Winter has another flight. If Candlemas brings clouds and rain, Winter will not come again.

The actual beginning of spring would occur at the Vernal Equinox, which is about seven weeks after Groundhog Day. It occurs about March 20 or 21.

In the 1700s and 1800s German settlers brought this custom to America and they relied upon the groundhog to tell when spring would begin. 

These early German emigrants settled in southeastern and central Pennsylvania. The earliest known reference to this custom was mentioned in a diary entry on Feb. 4, 1841 in Berks County Penn. It was written by a local  storekeeper named James Morris. He wrote: “Last Tuesday, on the 2nd, was Candlemas day, the day on which, according to the Germans, the Groundhog peeps out of his winter quarters and if he sees his shadow he pops back for another six weeks nap, but if the day be cloudy he remains out, as the weather is to be moderate.”

This custom of the Groundhog seeing or not seeing his shadow, dates back to 1886 where, in an area known as Gobbler’s Knob, near Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania this annual tradition began. It has been held there each year on Feb. 2, which is known as Groundhog Day.

Thousands of people gather each year to see what the Groundhog will predict. After a long winter, the onlookers are hoping the animal will not see his shadow, so an early spring can be expected. Thus, according to legend, preventing six more weeks of winter.

In southeastern Pennsylvania they have Groundhog Lodges. There, they celebrate this annual holiday with special events where speeches are given , along with plays and skits that are performed. They also enjoy good food at theses events.

At these gatherings, only a Pennsylvania German dialect is spoken. If someone at the event speaks in English, he is assessed a small monetary fine and the money is placed into a small bowl that is on the table.   

Because of the popularity of Punxsutawney Phil’s annual prediction, other such events have sprung up in other locations. In the state of Pennsylvania, there are similar ceremonies that are held in the Anthracite Coal Region of Schuylkill County,  in Quarryville in Lancaster County, the Sinnamahoning Valley and Bucks County.

Other places with Groundhog Day festivities are New York, with their Staten Island Chuck, who also did not see his shadow this year, thus calling for an early spring.

These events also occur in Marion, Ohio: Hagerstown and Frederick, Md.; Lilburn, Ga. and Woodstock, Ill. Along with the Shenandoah Valley in Virginia, the states of Ohio and Virginia and among Amish communities in over twenty states. Plus there is one of the events even held in Atlanta, Ga. with the Groundhog Gen. Beauregard Lee, as the weather forecaster.

At the University of Dallas in Irving, Texas they celebrate Groundhog Day also. There, it is an official university holiday and a large celebration is held each year. It claims to be the second largest of theses events in the world.

Up in Canada, they celebrate Groundhog Day, in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Val d'Espoir near Percé, Quebec, Shubenacadie, Nova Scotia and in Wiarton, Ontario with Wiarton Willie who predicts the arrival of spring in that area of Canada.

In February of 2012, Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow and predicted six more weeks of winter weather. That year his prognostications proved to be wrong, since it was the warmest seven month period, from January to June since records had begun to be kept since 1895.

So, the skeptics have their doubts, as to the celebration’s weather accuracy of the Groundhog predictions for spring’s arrival. But, despite these distractions, the annual event is still a popular bit of folk lore.

Groundhog Day in Punxsutawney, Penn. is still the largest, most widely recognized event of its kind.

Over 40,000 people gather each year to see what type of prediction Punxsutawney Phil will give, as to the arrival of spring.

At this year's 127th Groundhog Day at Gobbler‘s Knob on Feb. 2, the forecast was for an early spring. So, I guess we can put away the snow shovels and await spring’s early arrival.

Condolences go out to the families of two former Exline residents who passed away recently, Golda (Mathes) Sleeth, the wife of the late, Lewis “Jack” Sleeth and Deloris (Terry) Foster, the wife of the late Delbert Foster.

A local Exline resident is turning her hobby into a business. Freda Sargent’s passion for sewing has prompted her to begin doing sewing for others. She will do alterations, hem dresses, make clothes and do whatever her customers would like, in the way of sewing. You may call her at (641) 895-5003 for further information.

Just to let everyone know, The Exline Old Country Store will be closing an hour early today at 6 p.m. so the employees may attend the annual Cline Company party at the Majestic Theater.

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The Iowegian wants readers to think about the solicitation ordinance that will prevent groups or individuals from entering a roadway to solicit money. The Centerville City Council in June by a 5-0 vote passed the first reading of just such an ordinance. Public pressure and during a subsequent special meeting, the council voted 3-2 to table the ordinance. A second special meeting to discuss the solicitation ordinance is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 7 at City Hall. So, the question of the week is, "Do you or do you not support the ordinance to prevent solicitation of funds in city streets?"

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