The Legend and Lore Behind Groundhog Day

  • January 31, 2017
  • Jenna Maxwell

When it comes to weather, there is winter, and then there is WINTER. This year, across the nation, we have seen a wide variety of unusually harsh and rather extreme winter weather. Winter has been fraught with all manner of snow, sleet, rain, wind and everything in between. Many of you may already be pining for spring, and who can blame you? When, oh when will spring arrive? At times like this, it's more important than ever to have a weather forecasting resource that you can trust. Whether you choose to check a weather app on your phone or take a simpler approach and just stick your head outside to see what's going on --knowing what's happening with your local weather is important. The whole idea of weather forecasting is hardly anything new--in fact, as far back as the earliest civilizations, predicting the weather has been an important part of all cultures.

One of the most legendary predictors of weather has centered on of all things, a groundhog. The methodology used with this fat marmot is rather simple and certainly doesn't require thermometers, barometers, weather maps or even satellites. Here is everything you've been dying to know about one of the most bizarre weather forecasting techniques of all time, all featured in an upcoming holiday known as Groundhog Day.

Groundhog Day is celebrated this Thursday, February 2nd. Although the first official Groundhog Day was marked in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania in 1887, the core premise of the celebration has roots that go deep into history. Thousands of years ago, ancient Europeans had some rather quirky methods of predicting the weather. It was important to try at least to make an educated guess about the length of winter back in those days. Local folks in the villages were anxious to figure out when the best time was to plant their crops. Mid-winter was estimated to occur on February 2, and this seemed like an excellent opportunity to begin assessing how much longer winter would last. As was common back in those days, the locals were fairly superstitious about a lot of things. At that time long ago, midwinter also coincided with a celebration known as Candlemas. The ancients viewed Candlemas as a religious holiday, but according to ancient lore, it was also a time that the future of winter could be predicted.

"If Candlemas be fair and bright,
Winter will have another flight.
If Candlemas be cloud and rain,
Winter will be gone and not come again."

During the celebration of Candlemas, a couple of animals were thought to have mystical powers when it came to weather prediction. These animals (primarily badgers and sometimes bears) were used and observed. The thinking was if one could see the badger's shadow on this mid-winter day, winter was going to continue for several weeks. If the shadow was absent, spring was thought to be imminent.

When German immigrants eventually migrated to the United States and settled in Pennsylvania, they brought with them many of their customs from the old country. One of these old traditions was, of course, the practice of looking for badger shadows as a method of predicting the weather. Once in Pennsylvania, however, badgers were pretty hard to find. One animal that seemed to be roaming around in abundant numbers was the Groundhog or as it sometimes otherwise known, the Woodchuck.

Not only was the groundhog waddling around all over the place in Pennsylvania in those days, but this close relative of the ground squirrel was also considered to be a culinary delicacy in those parts. During the late 1800's, particularly at the Punxsutawney Elks Lodge, groundhogs were a menu favorite. Aficionados of the groundhog were passionate enough about this portly critter to form a club in honor of their beloved rodent. The Punxsutawney Groundhog Club was born. In 1887, the Groundhog Club held their first official ceremony putting their beloved mascot, "Punxsutawney Phil" to use as a weather forecaster. Filling in for the badgers and bears used in olden days, on this particular February the 2nd, Punxsutawney Phil climbed out of his cozy burrow just long enough to show himself while onlookers watched anxiously for his shadow.

Here were are, 130 years later, and Groundhog day in Punxsutawney Pennsylvania is still holding its own as a long-standing tradition. Classic formal garb, including top hats and tails, are all part of the pomp and circumstance that goes along with Punxsutawney Phil's distinguished appearance. Other chubby imposter groundhogs such as Buckeye Chuck, South Lake Jake and Jimmy the Groundhog, have popped up in various places around the country. Groundhog Day is now a celebration happening in many locations outside of Gobbler's Knob, Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. Perhaps a Groundhog Day event may even be happening near you.

So, if you're wondering what's left of winter--look no further. On Thursday, February the 2nd, the nation's attention will turn to a groundhog known as Punxsutawney Phil as his shadow does or doesn't show up along with him. If Phil sees his shadow, tradition states we're in for six more weeks of winter. If Phil's shadow is gloriously absent, spring is just around the corner. Devotees of Phil and members of the Groundhog Club claim that Phil's weather predictions are 100% accurate. StormFax, however, puts Phil's accuracy rate at a rather abysmal 39%. Whether you believe in the weather wizardry of an old groundhog or not, there's something completely awesome about the idea of a weather-predicting animal named Phil. Groundhog Day is celebrated this Thursday, February 2nd.

January Movie Blues

  • January 24, 2017
  • Jenna Maxwell

No, it's not just your imagination. January is notoriously a little bit slow when it comes to new movies. Rarely, if ever, does Hollywood put out a movie during the month of January that completely explodes in wild popularity at the box office. In fact, the movies introduced in January are done so strategically--these are often the films that sometimes the studios have a few concerns about, or they may even consider being a little embarrassing. In addition to little support and a general lack of enthusiasm from the studios, January movie releases come out right during award season, which doesn't help matters. So, if it feels like after you've seen all those new holiday blockbusters that your local theater has pretty much dried up--well, you might not be imagining things. Maybe we just got a little spoiled over the holidays, particularly this year with so many big hitter movies coming our way.So, now it's gloomy January-- what's a movie lover to do? Some films coming out this month that have potential entertainment value and potentially could even be a hidden movie gem. Here's a sampling of what will be showing up at your local cinema during the month of January.

Monster Trucks. If you were to ask a four-year-old what kind of movie he would make given a chance, he might come up with a plot similar to that found in the film "Monster Trucks." In fact, that is precisely where the concept of this live-action, CGI hybrid film came from--as the then President of Paramount Pictures, Adam Goodman, reportedly came up with the idea for "Monster Trucks" with help from his preschool age son. A small fortune to the tune of 125 million dollars was spent making "Monster Trucks." The release date for the film changed many times before the movie finally made its theatrical debut on Friday, January the 13th. The Friday the 13th release date may not have been the only bad omen this film had to manage. When all is said and done, however, it's entirely possible that your kids will like "Monster Trucks" even if you don't. The premise of the movie centers around what would happen if cars were not powered by motors--but rather, they were mechanized by rather gnarly, disgusting monsters instead.(Hey, it could happen and in this movie it does.)

Resident Evil: The Final Chapter. Resident Evil: The Final Chapter, duly titled brings audiences the epilog to what has been a long, six film series of video-game-inspired movies featuring some outstanding Sci-Fi thrills. Milla Jovovich will be back to reenact the role of Alice as the film tries to tie together all the loose ends and bring the Resident Evil story home. Although the entire Resident Evil franchise has never been close to critically acclaimed, fans nonetheless love the films. The Resident Evil suite of movies represents the most financially profitable video game-inspired movie franchise to date. If you are looking for some solid winter entertainment, particularly if you are a follower of the series, this movie has great potential and is a must see. Resident Evil: The Final Chapter hopes to wrap the entire Resident Evil lineup with a bang!

If the new January movie releases just aren't getting you excited, fortunately, there is still time to see some great movies that have been released over the holidays and are still playing at your local theater. Some of our do-not-miss favorites include:

Don't let the winter blues get you down! January is a great time to go to the movies. January movie crowds are much lighter than they were just weeks ago, and you never know when that unexpected January film release might unexpectedly turn into a cult classic. What are you waiting for?

Fun Facts About Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

  • January 10, 2017
  • Jenna Maxwell

Have you seen Rogue One yet? If so, you are one of the nearly 500 million people who has already taken part in the first Star Wars standalone film. Since around these parts we are pretty much obsessed with all things Star Wars, we thought we'd pass along a few fun facts and tidbits about Star Wars and the latest film, "Rogue One: A Star Wars Story."

  • "Rogue One: A Star Wars Story" is the first Star Wars movie that is supposed to not be an actual part of the original Star Wars episodes. The movie is considered to be the first Star Wars standalone film.  The concept for the story, first envisioned by John Knolls, was pitched to Lucasfilm chief Kathleen Kennedy who promptly fell in love with the idea. The rest, as they say, is history.
  • Rogue One is a prequel that in Star Wars history, takes place just before Star Wars Episode IV, "A New Hope." (1977) Rogue One tells the tale of the Rebel Alliance's attempt to steal the plans for the Empire's new superweapon, the Death Star.
  • One of the best reviews of the new film likely came from George Lucas himself who claimed to have loved the movie. Director Gareth Edwards stated, "his opinion means the world to me."
  • Rogue One is the first Star Wars film not to feature a Jedi as the primary character. Darth Vader (an ex-Jedi) does appear in the movie.
  • For the second time in Star Wars live action movie, a woman has the leading role. In "Rogue One: A Star Wars Story," Felicity Jones stars as theater Orso.
  • "Rogue One: A Star Wars Story" is the first Star Wars film not to begin with scrolling text. Didn't you kind of miss it?
  • "Rogue One: A Star Wars Story" is the third Star Wars film to receive a PG-13 rating.
  • The planet that Jyn is rescued from is called Wobani. Doesn't this sound an awful lot like Obi-Wan? Coincidence? We think not.
  • Without completely spoiling the movie for those of you who have not yet seen it--Princess Leia does have a surprise cameo created primarily with CGI technology. In light of the untimely passing of actress Carrie Fisher who played the role of Leia in the original Star Wars film, this brief moment seemed particularly timely and poignant.
  • What would a Star Wars film be without a companion droid?  In "Rogue One: A Star Wars Story" audiences are introduced to a reprogrammed Imperial droid known as K-2S0.

And because we completely love them, just a word or two now about the fabulous Rogue One costumes. From Jyn Erso herself to the Imperial Death Troopers, we think the costumes of Rogue One are amazing. Jyn's Erso finds herself up against the Empire as part of a must succeed desperation mission to steal the Death Star plans. Jyn's attire reflects her bold as well as strong personality, from her rugged jacket to her ever ready belt and holster.

After seeing the movie, you feel in love with K-2SO, right? (Is it weird that we always come out of these Star Wars films in love with the Droid?) K-2SO's costume look is fun and imaginative, just like his quirky, lovable character.

The dark and ominous Death Troopers of the Advanced Weapon Research Division are a highly specialized stormtrooper, reflected in their epic costumes. These Death Troopers have a gleaming dark armor that is in huge contrast to the everyday white stormtroopers we've come to know and love. The Death Troopers are fierce bodyguards to Director Krennic, a highly placed officer in Imperial Intelligence.

"Rogue One: A Star Wars Story" is showing now in a theater near you.

Best of 2016 - The Costume Characters You Loved the Most

  • January 03, 2017
  • Jenna Maxwell

2016 was an interesting year for a lot of things--but in these parts, what we've come to appreciate the most are characters that are not only interesting but who also have their own unique personality and sense of style.  When it comes to getting into character and dressing up in a costume for any occasion, pop culture, television and the movies are one of the best sources for new and fresh character ideas.  2016 was no exception.  2017 will inevitably bring with it a fresh new onslaught of personas for us to fall in love with--but before we get ahead of ourselves, let's take a look back on some of the most popular costume characters of 2016!

Deadpool. The Marvel Comics hit movie "Deadpool" introduced audiences to the irreverent, obnoxious and hilarious anti-hero, Deadpool.  Not your typical clean as a whistle superhero, Deadpool shot some fresh new life into the superhero costume character genre.

Superman, Batman & Wonder Woman.  Superhero costumes are traditionally always popular, but there is nothing like a hit movie to drum up some new excitement for an old tried and truly beloved character.  Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice did just that for these three classic heroes. 2016 was their time to shine.

Game of Thrones. Do we ever get tired of Game of Thrones?  (No.) Jon Snow, Daenerys Targaryen and a huge cast of amazing characters to choose from left costume wearers and fans of the show only one problem--which Game of Thrones character look to choose.

Star Wars.  "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" introduced moviegoers to a whole new batch of epic Star Wars characters including, Kylo Ren and Rey.  And of course, there is still an entire plethora of Star Wars staple characters that are always popular including Darth Vader, Chewbacca, and those ever-ready Storm Troopers.

Pokemon. 2016 shot some new life into the classic Pokemon characters with the introduction of the mobile game app Pokemon Go.  Players of the game were able to use the app to walk streets, suburbs, and neighborhoods in search of Pokemon creatures to capture. 

Captain America.  Captain America is not just another superhero.  Arguably the most patriotic of all the heroic comic book characters ever imagined, Captain America also had his own feature film this year, namely "Captain America: Civil War."   Captain America embodies all that is just, noble and brave--it's no wonder that we love him. 

Donald Trump & Hillary Clinton. Two of the most interesting non-fictional characters of the year came out of this year's Presidential Election.  The two presidential candidates were the topic of nearly every conversation country wide while creating a massive quantity of daily headlines for months.  Donald Trump will be our new president, but both candidates were popular choices for costume dress up.

The Classics:  There are some costume characters that year after year, always remain popular.  This year's most popular classic looks included Mickey and Minnie Mouse, Zombies, (of all types) Pirates, Vampires and Witches.

Harley Quinn & The Joker.  The most popular character duo of the year was arguably Harley Quinn and the Joker; both rebooted in a fresh new way via 2016's feature film, "Suicide Squad." The completely dysfunctional nature of Harley Quinn and The Joker's relationship only added to the vileness of their wacky union.  Add to the mix two unique, simply off-the-charts personal styles, and you have the makings of a costume look that is simply unsurpassed.

And there you have it--2016's most memorable costume characters. We can only wonder what fabulous costume characters may be in store for our entertainment in 2017.

Happy New Year from your friends at Halloween Express!