“OK, campers, rise and shine, and don’t forget your booties ’cause it’s cold out there. It’s cold out there every day.”
Is there anyone who doesn’t know from which legendary movie is this sentence? Of course, from one of the best movies of all time: Groundhog Day. For those who didn’t see this masterpiece, I will only mention that the whole movie happens in a single day: February 2. The day when, according to folk beliefs, the Marmots exit from their pits to check is it winter ended.
It all started with the Germans. They had a tradition of marking Candlemas on February 2 as “Badger Day” (Dachstag), where if a badger emerging found it to be a sunny day thereby casting a shadow, it foreboded the prolonging of winter by four more weeks. So the same tradition as the Germans, except that winter’s spell would be prolonged for six weeks instead of four, was maintained by the Pennsylvanians on Groundhog Day. In Germany, the animal was a badger, but for Pennsylvania Dutch, it became groundhog.
A similar tradition exists all over the world. In Serbia, we have a tradition that on February 15 we celebrate Sretenje, (The Meeting Of The Lord). On that day the bear will be awakened from winter dormancy, and if it sees its own shadow in this sleepy and confused state, it will get scared and go back to sleep for an additional 40 days, thus prolonging the winter. And this is the same celebration since the Serbian church does not use the Gregorian calendar. By Julian calendar, which is still in use by Serbian Orthodox Church, February 15 is actually February 2nd. And of course that Serbs are not going to listen a damn squirrel about anything! It had to be a largest and deadliest animal in their neighborhood – a bloody bear 🙂
But enough about February second, let’s see a hero of Groundhog day – his royal cuteness, lord of whistle and prince of Alpine meadows – the Marmot. Marmots are large members of the squirrel family. In fact, the Alpine marmot is the largest squirrel in the world! But, as you can guess from the plot of the movie and traditional customs, instead of climbing the trees, these large squirrels live underground.
Alpine marmots live within family groups of a pair of parents with usually 10-20 offspring. Young marmots are very playful, and you can see them care for one another by grooming each other. But this guy was older and he was not playing. He was on the watch for predators. I saw him one late afternoon on the hills of the Alps. He was enjoying the last rays of the sun for that day, while he scanned his surroundings for possible predators and dangers.
If you respect his space, marmot will be a great model for you. As long as I left enough space between me and his burrow, he didn’t mind the snap of the camera and my delighted sighs. The day I hung out with him was not February 2nd, but this little buddy became a symbol of February for me from that day forward. Hope you like him 🙂
“When Chekhov saw the long winter, he saw a winter bleak and dark and bereft of hope. Yet we know that winter is just another step in the cycle of life. But standing here among the people of Punxsutawney and basking in the warmth of their hearths and hearts, I couldn’t imagine a better fate than a long and lustrous winter.”