"If Candlemas be fair and bright; Come Winter, have another flight;
"If Candlemas brings clouds and rain; Go Winter, and come not again."
In that short verse, and others like it from Europe, lay the roots of Groundhog Day. Candlemas dates back to early Christianity in Europe, celebrating Christ as the "light of the world." On Feb. 2, the clergy blessed and distributed candles for the people to display in their windows. Early Europeans watched to see if hedgehogs saw their shadows to predict the remainder of winter.
In the absence of hedgehogs in North America, early Americans decided groundhogs would make a reasonable substitute. German settlers brought with them the tradition of Candlemas. The belief was that at the midpoint between the winter solstice and spring equinox, if the weather was fair, the second half of winter would be cold and cruel. If the skies were cloudy, an early spring would follow.
The first record of using groundhogs to predict winter weather dates to 1842 in Berks County, Pa. For more information about Groundhog Day, visit www.groundhog.org.
Snowy owl update: In last week's column I described Project SNOWstorm, research to learn as much as possible about snowy owls during this impressive irruption year. Scientists are catching owls and equipping them with transmitters to track their movements. "Philly," trapped at Philadelphia International Airport on Jan. 9, was relocated 40 miles west to Lancaster County farmland. The bird returned to the airport just two days later. Sadly, Philly was hit and killed by a UPS cargo plane at daybreak on Jan. 29. The plane was not damaged.
Shalaway can be heard 8 to 10 a.m. Saturdays on 1370 WVLY-AM (Wheeling) or online at http://tunein.com/radio/WVLY-1370-s23555/. Visit Scott's website www.drshalaway.com or contact him at sshala...@aol.com or 2222 Fish Ridge Road, Cameron, WV 26033.