From Writer's Almanac:
Today we celebrate three holidays, all of them from the same source.
February 2nd is a "cross-quarter" day in the solar calendar, which means that it falls exactly between a solstice and an equinox.
It's the ancient Celtic celebration of Imbolc, in honor of Brigit, the goddess of fire, poetry, healing, and childbirth. Brigit brings the healing power of the sun back to the world on Imbolc, a day that carries the first promise of spring. Imbolc comes from the Old Irish i mbolg, meaning "in the belly," because this is the time when ewes became pregnant to deliver spring lambs.
The Christians took over the Celtic celebration and made February 2nd into a Christian holiday, Candlemas Day. Candlemas Day celebrates the presentation of Jesus at the Temple exactly 40 days after Christmas.
There are many old sayings about today — about the emergence of animals from their winter dens and omens that predict the season ahead. One English saying goes:
If Candlemas day be fair and bright,
Winter will have another flight.
But if Candlemas day bring clouds and rain,
Winter is gone and won't come again.
There was a tradition in many European countries of watching animals — especially badgers — to see how they acted on this day. If they returned to their dens, it meant that there was still a long winter ahead.
German immigrants in Pennsylvania found that there weren't a lot of badgers in America, but there were a lot of groundhogs, so the holiday evolved into Groundhog Day. The first reference to Groundhog Day is from 1841, in the diary of a storekeeper in Morgantown, Pennsylvania. He wrote: "Last Tuesday, the 2nd, was Candlemas day, the day on which, according to the Germans, the Groundhog peeps out of his winter quarters and if he sees his shadow he pops back for another six weeks' nap, but if the day be cloudy he remains out, as the weather is to be moderate."
Communication with Cats
Posted by Charles Platt, February 1, 2009 10:39 AM
Cat on a shelf in a car
(Charles Platt is a guest blogger)
When I owned a pickup truck, my cat Eddie used to enjoy sitting on top of the instrument panel, under the windshield, where he watched the highway while I drove. I was commuting to a regular job at that time, and if I altered my everyday route even slightly, Eddie would look at me and meow, indicating that he had noticed the change in our routine—although whether he approved or disapproved was hard to determine.
After some vandals stole the pickup truck and urinated into the gas tank before abandoning it, I bought a car. Its more steeply raked windshield allowed insufficient room for Eddie to sit under it, so, I made a shelf for him which hooked onto the hardware associated with the sun visor, and I stapled a piece of doormat to the shelf so that Eddie could dig in his claws. I suspect that a primary reason why many cats dislike riding in cars is that they don't feel entirely secure on a moving object if they cannot use their claws effectively.
The next time we went for a drive, Eddie located himself on the shelf without any prompting. He seemed to understand its purpose immediately. This photo was taken outside my Florida house when he was waiting for our morning commute to begin.
In my experience, if you treat a cat as “just an animal,” that's how he will behave. He will sense that you are not really trying to understand him, and naturally enough, he will give up trying to communicate. The more you engage with him as an equal and try to understand his perspective on the world, the more he will respond to you, and the closer your relationship may become.