Monday, February 2, 2015

Holidays and Observances for Feb 2 2015

Groundhog Day

Groundhog Day falls on February 2 in the United States, coinciding with Candlemas. It is a part of popular culture among many Americans and it centers on the idea of the groundhog coming out of its home to “predict” the weather.

Groundhog Day is a popular observance in many parts of the United States. Although some states have in some cases adopted their own groundhogs, the official groundhog, Punxsutawney Phil, lives at Gobbler’s Knob near Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. The town has attracted thousands of visitors over the years to experience various Groundhog Day events and activities on February 2.

The Punxsutawney Groundhog Club plays an important role in organizing Groundhog Day in the town. Club members, news reporters, locals and visitors meet at Gobbler’s Knob on February 2 each year to await Phil’s appearance and his weather prediction.  Pennsylvania’s governor has been known to attend Groundhog Day ceremonies. Many weather researchers questioned the groundhog’s accuracy in predicting the weather but some of the groundhog’s fans may not agree.

Thousands of years ago when animalism and nature worship were prevalent, people in the area of Europe now known as Germany believed that the badger had the power to predict the coming of spring. They watched the badger to know when to plant their crops. By the time the first German immigrants settled in Pennsylvania they probably understood that this was not true but the tradition continued.

Unfortunately there were not many badgers in Pennsylvania so the groundhog substituted the badger. Tradition has it that if the groundhog will sees its shadow on February 2 it will be frightened by it and will return to its burrow, indicating that there will be six more weeks of winter. If it does not see its shadow, then spring is on the way.

Punxsutawney held its first Groundhog Day in the United States in the 1800s. The first official trek to Gobbler's Knob was made on February 2, 1887. It is said that Punxsutawney Phil (the groundhog) was named after King Phillip. He was called Br'er Groundhog prior to being known as Phil. Canada also celebrates Groundhog Day.

The groundhog, also known as the woodchuck or marmot, is believed to make weather predictions relating to winter and spring according to superstition. Movies, advertisements, cartoons and other media have portrayed the legendary role of the groundhog in popular culture. The term “Groundhog Day” is a phrase that is sometimes used to express if the same events or actions occur repetitively for a period of time.

Groundhog Job Shadow Day

Job shadowing is an activity designed to give young people an up-close look at the world of work and to answer the question, "Why do I have to learn this?" Through this experience, students get to see, first-hand, how the skills learned in school relate to the skills necessary to succeed in the workplace.

On February 2nd, nearly 1,000 students will visit worksites and shadow professionals for half a day, observing and even assisting them with their work.

The PIC facilitates the event from start to finish. PIC Career Specialists work one-on-one with students to prepare them for this half-day experience through a series of career- readiness workshops. Employers provide a brief job description to ensure that PIC staff can match students' career interests with relevant businesses. The PIC provides the shadow host with a handbook of suggested activities to help structure the event.

Launched jointly by the Boston PIC and the Boston Public Schools in 1996, Groundhog Job Shadow Day was established to introduce Boston students to the world of work. This event is dedicated to helping young people explore careers and make the connection between the classroom and the "real world". Job Shadow Day is now a national initiative, thanks to a coalition of sponsors that includes America's Promise, Junior Achievement, the U.S. Department of Education, and the U.S. Department of Labor. View the coalition’s website at to learn more.

Nationwide, over 500,000 students participate in Groundhog Job Shadow Day each year. Last year, the PIC organized more than 100 employers in the greater Boston area and nearly 800 students from Boston’s public high schools. Job Shadow sites varied from small businesses hosting one student to larger companies that hosted 75 students in various departments.

Hedgehog Day

While we all look forward to Groundhog Day on February 2nd and the forecast for an early spring from the two greatest weather hogs on the planet - Wiarton Willie in Wiarton, Ontario and Punxsutawney Phil in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, the truth behind this 200 year-old tradition is oftentimes forgotten.

Long before the advent of Groundhog Day on February 2nd,  the Romans observed a similar event thousands of years ago on the exact same day. Rather than use the North American groundhog, the Romans used the hedgehog.

“If during hibernation, he (the hedgehog) looks out of his den on 2nd February and sees his shadow it means there is a clear moon and six more weeks of winter so he returns to his burrow.

The only difference between this ancient event and the present day version (aside from the hedgehog, of course) is the fact that the Romans would look to see if the hedgehog saw its shadow under a clear moon at night.

Here in North America, where we have no indigenous species of hedgehog, we replaced the hedgehog with the native groundhog.  To this day Punxsutawney Phil and Wiarton Willie battle it out to see who is the better weather forecaster, but little do they or their handlers know that the original prognosticator of spring was a hedgehog.

Marmot Day

Marmot Day is an Alaskan holiday established to celebrate marmots and Alaskan culture. Although local festivals have been part and parcel of frontier life for decades, Marmot Day became an official holiday on April 18, 2009, when the 26th Alaska State Legislature officially passed Senate Bill 58. Marmot Day is celebrated on February 2, replacing Groundhog Day with a holiday honoring Alaska's marmots. From Juneau to Anchorage to Fairbanks, and all the cities in between, Marmot Day has become an Alaskan institution.

Senate Bill 58, sponsored by Sen. Linda Menard, R-Wasilla, was first introduced by the late Dr. Curtis Menard, Linda Menard's husband and former state legislator. Concerned by the gradual decline of Alaska's folk values, and worried that the 49th state would become a suburb of Houston both culturally and economically, Dr. Menard drew a line in the sand with his idea of creating Marmot Day in the 1990s. After getting stuck in a committee while politics was played, the controversial Marmot Day bill died in the legislature. Sen. Linda Menard reintroduced the bill for the 26th Alaska Legislature, and the bill passed by a Marmot's whisker on the second to last day of the legislative session, and Sarah Palin signed it into law. As Senator Menard said, "By recognizing the marmot, our state built a tradition and legacy to be built on for future generations.

National Heavenly Hash Day

This treat is fit for the pearly gates - February 2 is National Heavenly Hash Day!

Whatever mental image the name of this mystery dish conjures up in your mind, you're probably right! That's because the name "heavenly hash" has been given to several things, and indeed, they all sound divinely inspired.

If heavenly hash is mentioned around the holidays, it's most likely that fluffy white fruit salad that can contain any number of yummy ingredients all swirled together. Typically, sour cream, mini marshmallows, mandarin oranges, coconut and pineapple chunks are mixed and left to sit in the fridge overnight.

The next day, you've got some serious magic going on in the bowl because the acidity of the fruit and sour cream breaks down the marshmallows for a sweet chilled salad that is reminiscent of days gone by. You can add pretty much anything to this salad and it will still taste marvelous. Grapes, bananas, apples, maraschino cherries or even Cool Whip add distinctive flavors. This is also known as five-cup or Millionaire Salad, which your grandparents are sure to recognize as a childhood favorite.

Heavenly hash is also the name of a candy, which you can make with chocolate, walnuts and mini marshmallows. Heavenly hash cakes and brownies are also popular. And just think, no matter what you go with, you're sure to get your daily serving of marshmallows in!

National Tater Tot Day

First invented in 1953, tater tots, those wee darlings of the spud’s line of crispy treats, are loved by millions if the 70 million pounds of tots sold each year is any indication. In fact, they happen to be the most popular side dish in the American school system. Don’t forget to try a tot or two February 2 during National Tater Tot Day.

A tater tot is a side dish made from deep-fried, grated potatoes. They are widely recognized by their crispness, cylindrical shape, and small size. Tater Tots is a registered trademark of Ore-Ida (a division of the H. J. Heinz Company), which has become genericized.

The product was created in 1953 when Ore-Ida founders F. Nephi Grigg and Golden Grigg were trying to figure out what to do with leftover slivers of cut-up potatoes. They chopped up the slivers, added flour and seasoning, then pushed the mash through holes and sliced off pieces of the extruded mixture. The product was first offered in stores in 1956.

Originally, the product was very inexpensive. According to advertising lectures at Iowa State University, people did not buy it at first because there was no perceived value. When the price was raised, people began buying it. Today, Americans consume approximately 70 million pounds of tater tots per year.

When the tater tot product was first produced, there was no name for them. The owners of Ore-Ida decided to hold a contest among the employees that would help determine the product name. Clora Lay Orton, then a young house mother, submitted the name "tater tots". The name was a hit and she won the contest.

Sled Dog Day

Sled dogs have been a part of human society since the 10th century and share a noble part of history in North America and Europe. The Iditarod Sled Dog race, held annually in Alaska, covers 1161 miles from Willow, AK (outside of Anchorage) to Nome. Teams are typically comprised of 16 dogs who work in partnership with their musher. While the race has received criticism from those advocating animal welfare, the spirit of the human-canine partnership is an age-old tradition.

During a 1925 diphtheria epidemic in Nome, AK, Inuit children were particularly susceptible to the disease – but the antitoxin was hundreds of miles away. Sled dog Balto guided his Norwegian musher Gunnar Kaasen on the last leg of the “Great Race of Mercy,” a heroic mission to deliver the life-saving serum. With no available planes to make the journey from Seward to Nome, the serum was sent by train the first 298 miles. The last 674 miles of the journey were divided among dog sled teams who ran in relays, with Balto and Kaasen arriving in Nome on February 2nd at 5:30 a.m. While Balto and Kaasen ran the final leg of the relay, Leonhard Seppala and his lead dog, Togo, covered the longest and most perilous part of the terrain.

February 2nd is celebrated annually as Sled Dog Day, honoring sled dog heroes, both known and unsung. These sled dogs are typically Alaskan Malamutes, West Greenland Huskies, East Greenland Huskies, Mackenzie River Huskies, and Greenland Dogs, although a wide range of dogs have been used in sled races, from poodles to mixed breeds.

Tragically, during this celebration of sled dogs, animal lovers around the world are mourning the untimely death of 100 sled dogs in Whistler, BC. The dogs were culled after a decline in business at a Whistler adventure company. While the cull occurred in April, 2010, news reports are just now surfacing. The SPCA is currently investigating this case.

During this celebration of sled dogs worldwide, it is important to recognize the sacrifice and dedication that these dogs have had throughout human history – and to be thankful for the partnership of such committed companions.

World Wetlands Day

World Wetlands Day is celebrated on February 2nd every year as it marks the adoption of the Convention on Wetlands called Ramsar Convention which took place in the Iranian city of Ramsar near the CaspianSea on 2 February 1971. Around 160 countries have signed the Treaty that provides the framework for national action and international cooperation for the conservation and wise use of wetlands and their resources. The World Wetlands Day celebrations started from 1997 onwards. After this encouraging beginning, government agencies, non-governmental organizations, and groups of citizens at all levels of the community have come forward to use this opportunity to commence actions generating public awareness of wetland values and benefits in general and the Ramsar Convention in particular.

As wetlands are the most diverse and productive ecosystems on our planet, by saving them we can preserve ecosystems and their species. Wetlands are home to an immense variety of species ranging from plants, insects, freshwater fish, amphibians, marine turtles, mammals and birds. Wetlands are sites for resting, breeding and feeding for many migrating species.

World wetlands day celebration has inspired people around the world to work for wetlands. People became more and more aware of the connection between a healthy wetland eco-system and human health. Wetlands can prevent the contamination of ground water and it helps in water recycling too. Around 30 acres of wetlands are created in the city of Petaluma, California as part of the Ellis Creek Water Recycling Facility.

Infact, healthy wetlands can assure food security; water security; ‘insurance’ through the formation of natural buffers to storm damage; as well as spiritual, recreational and educational value. Degradation of wetlands results in the spread of infectious diseases and the resurgence of water-related diseases. It will also reduce the availability of wetland plants and animals that have medicinal values.

Because wetlands work for us: we have to work for wetlands as well. Restoration, creation and protection of wetlands can result in an improved health of our local, national, and international waterways. The theme for World Wetlands Day celebration, 2012 is "Wetlands and Tourism". Wetlands tourism is an advantage for people and wildlife both locally and nationally.