© 2024 Interlochen
CLASSICAL IPR | 88.7 FM Interlochen | 94.7 FM Traverse City | 88.5 FM Mackinaw City IPR NEWS | 91.5 FM Traverse City | 90.1 FM Harbor Springs/Petoskey | 89.7 FM Manistee/Ludington
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Outdoors: Groundhog's 'Bolero'

When one of my friends told me that Ravel’s "Boléro" was the Groundhog Day of dance music, I knew exactly what he was saying.

He is a dancer and I know he would rather use musical cues than to count, and well, "Boléro" is, and was intended to be, repetitive.

But how did the phrase  “Groundhog Day," which refers to a secular holiday celebrating a rodent, become synonymous with unvarying repetition?

Actually, it started as an early Christian feast day.

According to tradition, it seems that 40 days after the birth of a son, in adherence to Jewish the law as written in Leviticus, the mother, Mary, went to the Temple for ritual purification.

Once the  early church  decided to celebrate Christmas in December, they established the Feast of the Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary forty days later, on February 2.

By the year 450 or so, this religious holiday, which in many parts of the world is still celebrated, involved carrying candles in a procession.

When the tradition of carrying candles on February 2 spread to Europe where many cultures celebrated the winter solstice and the spring equinox, church leaders realized that the feast day fell exactly at the midpoint between the two light-related celestial events.

They called the observance Candlemas.  

In Germany, the superstition popped up that if a badger (or maybe it was a hedgehog), saw its shadow on the day of Candlemas, the creature would turn around and go back into its hole for six more weeks.

When Germans immigrated to America and discovered that hedgehogs and badgers were in short supply, they couldn’t help but notice that groundhogs were abundant.  

Candlemas morphed into Groundhog Day and lost all religious connotations.

We all know that groundhogs hibernate and that they might "wake up" in early February. 

Apparently, the body functions of a hibernating animal are so reduced that the brainwaves of sleep are impossible.

Yet, though scientists don’t understand why, sleep is essential.

Groundhogs experience what is called periodic arousal, meaning they wake up enough to catch up on their sleep. But they don’t pop out of their holes.

They just sleep for a bit and then drift back into hibernation.

But in Pennsylvania, Groundhog Day is a huge well-covered media event, which inspired Danny Rubin to write a screenplay which was released in 1993.  

The film comedy "Groundhog Day," starring Bill Murray, became a part of pop culture.

I know people who watch it every year. And you know what?

It’s always just the same.

"Outdoors with Coggin Heeringa" can be heard every Wednesday on Classical IPR.