Today is my niece’s and nephew’s birthdays. I was also reminded earlier this morning by Al Roker, the Today Show’s meteorologist, that February 2nd is Groundhog Day. Roker informed Today Show viewers that Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow this morning. As this historical tradition goes, we are in for six more weeks of winter!
It occurred to me that Spring will arrive on Monday, March 20, 2017! Therefore, we have roughly six more weeks of winter with or without Phil seeing his shadow. The question is whether the temps will be brutally cold or milder than normal? Where did this tradition of a groundhog predicting the weather come from, and how did Phil become the seer of seers in his parts. For sure, it was not ripped from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) headlines, and it has been around longer than I have been walking around on this earth.
Here are a few facts that I found that provide lead-ins for today [Refs 1 & 2]:
- The tradition dates back to the Romans and became part of German folklore during the Roman invasions centuries ago.
- The tradition is tied to Candlemas, an early Christian holiday. Those who celebrated Candlemas decided that clear skies on the holiday meant a longer winter.
- The Germans eventually began to believe that if the sun made an appearance on Candlemas Day, a hedgehog would cast a shadow — predicting six more weeks of winter.
- When German immigrants arrived in Pennsylvania, they found a large number of groundhogs. So, they decided that the groundhog, which resembles the European hedgehog, could predict the weather.
- The Punxsutawney Groundhog Club was founded in Punxsutawney, PA in 1887 by a group of groundhog hunters. The editor of the Punxsutawney newspaper was a member of the club, and he claimed that Punxsutawney Phil was the only true weather-predicting groundhog. Eventually the furry Pennsylvania rodent — known as Punxsutawney Phil — became famous.
Another blip on the radar shows that Punxsutawney Phil isn’t the only groundhog making predictions this time of year. There’s Staten Island Chuck (real name Charles G. Hogg) – who’s been making his prediction at the Staten Island Zoo for over three decades. There’s also groundhog Greta of western North Carolina. She will be making her prediction at Chimney Rock State Park later today.
And so that I don’t forget, happy birthday Ashley and Parrish!
- Groundhog Day 2017 history: 7 facts about the origin, results, by Cassy Sommer for SiLive, February 1, 2017, http://www.silive.com/news/index.ssf/2017/01/groundhog_day_history_7_facts.html
- Groundhog Day tradition has long history, by Bob Marcio for The Evening Sun, January 31, 2017, http://www.eveningsun.com/story/sports/2017/01/31/groundhog-day-tradition-has-long-history/97