"Bridget", artist uncredited
Today, Feb. 2, is celebrated as Groundhog Day in the US. To Catholics, it is Candlemas, or St. Bridget's Day. To the ancient Celts, it was Imbolc, one of the eight major holidays of the year and a day to celebrate the Goddess Brighid (Brigid).
Fire is one of the symbols of this goddess, whom I have written about several times (just check out my Feb. 2 posts the past few years).
"Brighid" by Shattered Dreams on deviantart.net
However, here in North Dakota, ice, not fire, is a much more likely symbol for Feb. 2. And any groundhogs we have around here would be way stupid to come out of their burrows. So what does one do on an early morning when the temperature is -23 degrees F, the coldest day of winter so far?
That is what happens when you throw boiling water into frigid air. Way cool, huh? (This image is from the Internet - filmed in Saskatchewan at -40 C - but our result was very much the same.)
A bunch of us gathered shortly after 8 this morning in the little atrium of the building in which we work while one brave soul dashed outside and threw a cup of boiling water into the air. (Actually, it had cooled off a bit from boiling, since it had to be brought from the kitchen.)
Apparently, ice crystals are formed when you do this, but to me it looked like snow, and it was brilliant against the clear blue sky. Someone called it "the essence of cloud." I have to say, it made my day!! I can't believe I have lived in North Dakota all my life and never knew about it.
According to Joe Larsen, a Ph.D. in chemistry at Rockwell Science Center in Los Angeles, CA, some people claim that hot water freezes faster than cold water. "This happens because the hot water is so close to being steam, that the act of throwing it into the air causes it to break up into tiny droplets. (Hot water is less viscous than cold water - listen to the sound it makes when you pour it in the sink.) The small water droplets have a large surface area which allows for a great deal of evaporation; this removes heat quickly. And finally, the cooled droplets are so small, that they can be easily frozen by the winter air. All of this happens before the water hits the ground. Cold water is thicker and stickier; it doesn't break up into such small pieces when thrown into the air, so it comes down in large blobs."
So much for scientific theory. To me it was just plain fun and it might just be the way I celebrate Groundhog Day/St. Brigit's Day/Goddess Brighid's Day from now on.
So Happy Cheap Thrills Day to you.
And no matter what Groundhog Phil saw in Punxatawney this morning, there will be 10 more weeks of winter here in North Dakota. Oh, joy.
"S. Bridget", artist uncredited
There are so many beautiful images of Brighid/Bridget on the Internet and I have used a lot of them my previous Imbolc posts. Here are the links:
2009 (two posts): http://celticanamcara.blogspot.com/2009/02/artist-unknown-aine-of-celts-here-on.html and
And 2010: http://celticanamcara.blogspot.com/2010/02/candlemas-imbolic-st-brigids-day.html
"Brigid", artist uncredited