Groundhog Day on February 2 is when we ask are we in for six more weeks of Winter? Only a groundhog named Punxsutawney Phil knows for sure. Each year on Groundhog Day, people flock to Gobbler’s Knob in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, to await the forecast of the local rodent celebrity. Originating with German settlers, who came to Pennsylvania in the 1700s and brought their seasonal superstitions with them, legend has it that if Phil sees his shadow on February 2, the winter chill will continue. Oddly, if the weather is cloudy and he doesn’t see his shadow, we can expect warmer temperatures and early spring. Groundhog Day is a tradition to be cherished. And yes, it is also a film starring Bill Murray
It’s that time again! Time to gaze towards Pennsylvania and watch a little groundhog scurry out of its den to tell the masses when to expect a break in winter weather and the spring breezes to flow. Yes, a groundhog… predicting the weather. Oh come now, stop laughing! It’s tradition. It’s fun and who doesn’t feel the need for a little fun this far into winter? Come, sit and let’s have a chat about this enduring custom. I’ll bet by the end of our chat, you will be anxiously counting down the days until next Groundhog Day!
History of Groundhog Day
Beginning in 1887 in the United States of America, Groundhog Day has grown in size and scope from its humble beginnings. When the United States made the day an official holiday, Clymer H. Freas was the editor of the Punxsutawney Spirit, a local newspaper in Punxsutawney Pennsylvania. He began to herald the town’s groundhog as the official “Groundhog Day Meteorologist”. Think about it. When you hear about this day who pops to mind?
That’s right! Punxsutawney Phil! Did you know there are countless other groundhogs who take this duty of predicting the weather just as seriously as Phil? Head over to that search engine and check it out! How accurate are these furry weather people? There is some debate over that but for dear old Phil, the professionals say that he is correct about 39% of the time (if it were me, I’d give him the point and say 40% but hey, that’s just my two cents!).
How to Celebrate Groundhog Day
To celebrate the day, you need to understand its finer points. What exactly does Phil do and why is it important? Well, he simply comes out of his den and the sun does the rest. What we are looking for is if he sees his shadow or not. Why is this mean anything? Well if he sees his shadow or not tells of the breaking of winter and the start of spring. According to custom, if the groundhog casts a shadow then we are in for another six weeks of winter weather.
Conversely, if he comes out and it is cloudy and casts no shadow, then spring like weather is on its way. So, I guess the trick is to wish for poor weather on Groundhog Day! To truly celebrate gather the children, make a hearty breakfast and settle in to watch the groundhog emerge. Today most morning news shows will carry the process live and with much pomp and circumstance.
Once you know the result you can joyously make plans – more skiing and snowmen or getting ready to look for those early blooming daffodils and roosting robins! How do you think it will turn out this year? Are you ready for the change of season? When Phil pokes his little nose out if his den and lets us know what to expect, join the rest of us with a hearty cheer! Happy Groundhog Day!
History of Groundhog Day
The Dachs were German-speaking immigrants who settled in Pennsylvania. They developed their own take on the legend of Candlemas in the 18th and 19th centuries bringing with them the custom of the native Groundhog as their annual weather announcer. Candlemas involved the clergy blessing and distributing candles needed for winter. The Dachs transformed the idea by selecting an animal to predict their needs for winter.
The first-ever Groundhog Day was created by a local newspaper editor Clymer Freas around 1886, who convinced Groundhog hunter and local businessman, and all members of his Punxsutawney Groundhog club on the idea of Groundhog Day. Together, they all made their way to Gobbler’s Knob where the Groundhog would make the final decision on the weather. Today, a group called the inner circle who wear top hats, conduct the official proceedings on February 2 in a Pennsylvania Dutch dialect, where tens of thousands of people attend the day’s events every year.
Studies have proven no strong correlation between a Groundhog spotting its own shadow and the arrival of spring subsequently. According to German lore, the badger known as Dachs is their forecasting animal. A separate version of traditions states that clear weather on the holy Christian day of Candlemas would often prohibit winter being prolonged.
Groundhog lore suggests much about Punxsutawney Phil. It is said that he drinks a magic ‘‘elixir of life’’ every summer, giving him seven more years to live. He has been predicting since around 1886, and a badger’s life span is around six years roughly, so go figure. There is also supposedly only one Phil and any other groundhogs who attempt to do what he does, are imposters. He is said to speak to the club president on the day, in front of the crowds in Groundhogese which is understood and then translated.