February 2, 2020
Day 33 of 366
February 2nd is the thirty-third day of the year. It is Inventor’s Day in Thailand and World Wetlands Day.
Historical items of note:
- In 1645, the combined army of Scottish Royalist Highlanders and Confederate Irish troops under James Graham, Lord Montrose destroyed the pursuing forces of Archibald Campbell, 1st Marquess of Argyll during the Scottish Civil War. This would become known as the Battle of Inverlochy.
- In 1653, New Amsterdam was incorporated. It would later become the City of New York.
- In 1848, the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo was signed, ending the two-year-long Mexican-American War.
- In 1850, Brigham Young declared war on the Timpanogos Tribe at the Battle of Fort Utah. The Timpanogos people had initially tolerated the settlers, the remnants of the Nauvoo Legion, but after three Mormons murdered a Timpanogos man known as Old Bishop followed by a hard winter where the tribe took 50 cattle from the Mormons, the war was declared. The Mormons killed 100 Timpanogos people, including Chief Old Elk’s tribe and other tribes that had no hostile history with the Mormons.
- In 1901, the funeral for Queen Victoria was held.
- In 1913, Grand Central Station was opened in New York City.
- In 1922, Ulysses by James Joyce was published.
- In 1925, dog sleds transporting a much-needed diphtheria serum reached Nome, Alaska. The serum was transported 674 miles across the Alaska Territory by 20 mushers and 150 sled dogs in five and a half days. The lead dog on the final sled was the famous Balto, but the true hero was lead dog Togo who covered 260 miles. The serum run inspired the Iditarod race.
- In 1940, Frank Sinatra made his first public appearance with the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra in Indianapolis.
- In 1942, the Osvald Group organized the first, active event of anti-Nazi resistance in Norway. It was a protest against the inauguration of the traitor Vidkun Quisling.
- In 1943, during World War II, the Battle of Stalingrad came to a close as Soviet troops accepted the surrender of German troops in the city.
- In 1947, actress and producer Farrah Fawcett was born.
- In 1949, actor and singer Brent Spiner was born.
- In 1954, actress and businesswoman Christie Brinkley was born.
- In 1955, President Dwight Eisenhower hosted the first presidential new conference on network television. It aired on ABC.
- In 2005, the Government of Canada introduces the Civil Marriage Act. When this legislation became law on July 20, 2005, it legalized same-sex marriage in the country.
In 1887, Groundhog Day was first observed in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania.
The tradition derives from a Pennsylvania Dutch superstition that if a groundhog or woodchuck emerges from its burrow on this day and sees its shadow due to clear weather, the animal will retreat to its den to weather six more weeks of winter. Conversely, if it doesn’t see its shadow because of cloudiness, spring will arrive early. The lore was brought from a German-speaking heritage where a badger is the prognosticator and may spring from a tradition where clear weather on the Christian holy day of Candlemas forbodes a prolonged winter.
There is no scientific basis for this superstition.
Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania houses the most famous weather-rodent in the world, named Punxsutawney Phil. Every year, top hat and tuxedo-clad members of the Inner Circle awaken Phil from his burrow on Gobbler’s Knob and “speak” to the groundhog through a “mystical” ancient acacia wood cane. The entire show depends on a light-hearted suspension of disbelief, including the mythology that Phil has lived to make these predictions since 1886, sustained by drinks of “groundhog punch” and “elixir of life”. In reality, groundhogs only live for about six years.
Other locations have similar celebrations and observations:
- Quarryville, PA: The Slumbering Groundhog Lodge, which was formed in 1907, uses a stuffed woodchuck in their observation. It used to be a contending rival to Punxsutawney’s event.
- Southeastern Pennsylvania: Several Groundhog Lodges (Grundsow Lodges) celebrate the holiday with fersommlinge, Pennsylvania Dutch social events in which food is served, speeches are made, and one or more g’spiel (plays or skits) are performed for entertainment. Only the Pennsylvania German dialect is spoken at the event and those who speak English pay a small penalty per word spoken.
- Sun Prairie, WI: The self-proclaimed “Groundhog Capital of the World” in response to a slight in a 1952 Punxsutawney Spirit newspaper article that described the location as a “remote two cow village buried somewhere in the wilderness.”
- New York: Staten Island Chuck is the official weather-forecasting woodchuck for New York City, and Dunkirk Dave is the local groundhog for Western New York. Dunkirk Dave is handled by Bob Will, a typewriter repairman who runs a rescue shelter for groundhogs.
- Raleigh, NC: Sir Walter Wally headlines the annual event at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences.
- Washington, D.C.: Potomac Phil, another stuffed critter, is the focus of the Dupont Circle Groundhog Day event.
- Liliburn, GA: General Beauregard Lee makes predictions for Butts County.
- Irving, TX: The University of Dallas has boasted of hosting the second largest Groundhog celebration in the world.
- Alaska: Groundhog Day has been replaced by Marmot Day, a celebration of the creature and Alaskan culture.
- Wiarton, Ontario has Wiarton Willie, Nova Scotia has Shubenacadie Sam (the first Groundhog Day prediction in North America), and Quebec has Fred la marmotte of Val-d’Espoir.
- Moscow, Saint Petersburg, and Samara, Russia all got in on the celebration as well in 2017.
Of course, the most popular representation of the celebration is 1993’s Groundhog Day, in which Bill Murray portrays a weatherman who visits Punxsutawney and ends up trapped in a time loop. The town was portrayed by Woodstock, Illinois in the film.
The Thing About Today is an effort to look at each day of 2020 with respect to its historical context.
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