Traditions. Every family has them. Special practices or rituals unique to each unit that you think about fondly and look forward to each year. An Easter egg hunt with cousins. A special summer pool date with lifelong best friends and their children. A wonderful new event where kids play against parents in a Thanksgiving football game.
One of my family’s traditions takes place each year on February 2nd. Besides being the birthday of two beloved family members, it is Groundhog Day. Legend has it that on that day, the groundhog emerges after being burrowed all Winter to look for his shadow. If he sees his shadow, there will be six more weeks of Winter. If there is no shadow, expect an early Spring.
Four years ago, I somehow stumbled on an annual event held at the Lutz Children’s Museum in Manchester, Connecticut. Apparently, the museum is the home of the “official Connecticut state groundhog” (who knew?) and every year, she or he makes a prediction about the end of the Winter season. The public is invited to attend the special occasion.
My daughter likes to set out her clothes the night before, to be able to just get up and go.
The museum’s doors open at 6am and remain open until 9am, inviting guests to stay and play. There are treats to eat, art projects, animals to pet, and themed face painting.
Then, around 6:45am, the museum invites people into a separate room to watch the main event. For years, we have watched Chuckles the Eighth make her predictions. But this year, there was a new marmot in town: Chuckles the Ninth, a one-eyed groundhog, rescued and rehabilitated down in Madison and then deemed unreleasable.
Apparently, only the Mayor of Manchester can speak groundhog. This year was extra special, as former Mayor, Judge Diana, swore Chuckles the Ninth in with an official oath.
Although nervous, Chuckles the Ninth then predicted an early Spring!
Satisfied and happy, my little family made our way back home, stopping briefly for some donuts. We do not stay to play, so there has never been an issue of making the bus on time.
I cherish this time with my children. This annual, early-morning excursion is a magical time together, while most people we know are just waking up.
“At the heart of every family tradition is meaningful experience.” Author unknown.