Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Let it gleam or let it glimmer...

One day, in the course of that winter, the sun had come out for a while in the afternoon, but it was the second of February, that ancient Candlmas-day whose treacherous sun, the precursor of six weeks of cold, inspired Matthew Laensberg with the two lines, which have deservedly become classic:

Let it gleam or let it glimmer 
The bear returns into his cave.
(Victor Hugo, Les Miserables, 1862, p. 730)
Bears and groundhogs are both hibernating animals.  I suspect it's a little safer to use groundhogs as official prognosticators.

The celebrated almanac of "Francis Moore, physician," to whose predictions thousands are accustomed to look with implicit confidence and veneration, is rivalled, on the continent, by the almanac of Liege, by "Matthew Laensberg," who there enjoys an equal degree of celebrity.

Whether the name of Laensberg is a real or an assumed паme is a matter of great doubt...The earliest of these almanacs known to exist is of the year 1636. It bears the name of Matthew Lansbert, mathematician, and not Laensberg, as it is now written.

-- The Table Book, W. Tegg, 1827, p. 138

Some feel it is cruel, and potentially dangerous, to wake up groundhogs.
While waking groundhogs from their hibernation has become a major tradition on Feb. 2, such efforts can actually put the animals' lives at risk...If a groundhog is awakened from hibernation too early, it might not have the energy to find food and survive in cold winter temperatures.
The St. Louis Zoo doesn't participate, but it's not due to groundhog health issues.
"The fact that we're not having a Groundhog Day celebration is not really a stand we're taking so much as it is that we have a really cranky groundhog who doesn't like to be woken up," St. Louis Zoo public relations director Janet Powell told the Tribune.
 More on the Candlemas origins of the holiday.

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