Today is Groundhog Day! It’s my favorite day of the year.
Groundhogs are cute, although they have formidable claws. And I love Groundhog Day becuase by February 2nd those super-short days of Winter are finally getting a bit longer.
As in the popular movie “Groundhog Day” there are “official” groundhog celebrations, supposedly helping to determine whether or not we will have an early Spring by coming out of their burrows. If they see a shadow or not, it could be an early Spring. and either seeing a shadow (or not).
There are quite a few official prognosticators of Spring (see the list below) and they don’t always agree, No matter whether a shadow is seen or not, Winter is on it’s way out!
The weather people probably hate standing around in the cold in the wee hours of the morning, but still, it’s a charming tradition.
Groundhogs are not hogs at all. They’re part of the marmot family.
At this time of year they come out of their burrows to scent mark turf in the forest, and then they go back to their burrows to enhance romance!
Celebrating Groundhog Day
I’ve never been to the actual Groundhog Day ceremony held annually in Punxsutawney on Ground Hog Day, February 2nd. I have visited the area and seen the official “Phil” (there are actually a few groundhogs and they live in the town’s library. On February 2nd, the happy faithful and the unhappy weather people assemble in the very early morning of February 2nd atop Gobblers Knob waiting for the “Inner Circle” (a bunch of groundhog handlers wearing top hats) to report on the undisputed king of the groundhogs: Punxsutawney Phil (he is the “prognosticator of prognosticators’) as to whether or not Phil saw his shadow.
There’s lots of singing and hoopla (and more shivering) and eventually, the lead Inner Circle person knocks on Phil’s tree “stump” (it’s actually metal and Phil lives in the Library, I’ve been to both Gobblers Knob and the library). Then the handler pulls out Phil (there are actually a couple of Phils but only one is needed for this ceremony).
The handler “talks” to Phil, and then makes the announcement about whether or not Phil saw his shadow, after which there is more shivering and a rush for hot drinks in a much warmer setting to celebrate either the coming of Spring or a few more weeks of Winter.
A Brief History of Groundhog Day
Groundhog Day has its origins in a European tradition that if a hibernating animal (usually a hedgehog) casts a shadow February 2nd (Candlemas) then winter will last another six weeks. If no shadow is seen, Spring will come early! The legend states: “For as the sun shines on Candlemas Day, so far will the snow swirl in May” When German settlers came to Pennsylvania’s to settle early in America’s history, they continued the tradition, exchanging the hedgehog for the more abundant, groundhog
More Than One GroundHog
Closer to wherever you live there are likely other official groundhogs. Here are some famous weather groundhogs to watch this year. Did they see a shadow, or not?!
1. Punxsutawney Phil (Punxsutawney, Pa.)
2. Staten Island Chuck (Staten Island, N.Y., and official groundhog meteorologist of New York City)
3. General Beauregard Lee (Lilburn, Ga.)
4. Dunkirk Dave (Dunkirk, N.Y.)
5. Chattanooga Chuck (Chattanooga, Tenn.)
6. Buckeye Chuck (Marion, Ohio)
7. Sir Walter Walley (Raleigh, N.C.)
8. Jimmy the Groundhog (Sun Prairie, Wis.)
9. Malverne Mel (Malverne, N.Y.)
10. Holtsville Hal (Holtsville, N.Y.)
11. Woody (Howell, Mich.)
DID PHIL SEE HIS SHADOW?
Does Phil see his shadow or not? Will we have an early Spring? February 2nd 2018: Phil did see his shadow, so we’re likely to have six more weeks of Winter, but Staten Island Chuck didn’t see his shadow, so who knows?! What do you think?
Report by Alison Blackman
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