Today is Ground Hog Day. I love this “holiday” so much, my husband took me to Punxsutawney for our 10th anniversary, so I could see ‘Phil” in person (we went to Fallingwater, too, just in case you think I totally have a screw loose). What I remember most about the trip, is that Punxsutawney is as challenging to get to, as to spell. It really is in the middle of nowhere. We drove and drove and drove…and drove.
When we finally reached the little town of Punxsutawney, it was hot. Seriously hot. So hot, that Phil’s metal “stump” burned my hand when I touched it. We walked around the town square, and took pictures with a statue of Phil. We wandered in a few gift shops featuring Phil souvenirs. There wasn’t much more to see. But it’s here that the most famous marmot in the world, Punxsutawney Phil (actually, there are several), emerges (is probably pulled kicking and fussing) from his warm home in the Punxsutawney Memorial Library, to be placed in a little enclosure under an outdoor (metal) tree “stump.” On February 2nd, early in the morning, while a large group of very cold but enthusiastic onlookers (and some likely reluctant news crews and weatherpeople) gather round. A group of men wearing warm coats and top hats will remove Phil (he has an official handler), to determine if the groundhog has seen his shadow. If he does, it means we have six more weeks of winter on the way.
It’s not a hard job for Phil and life is pretty good for him, except perhaps, on February 2nd. The groundhog has only tried to escape once. Handlers claim that Phil is 124 years old, so maybe he is just too tired to run (in reality,, ground hogs live 6-10 years). Of course, Phil isn’t any ordinary groundhog and he’s not the original. But he apparently is fairly accurate when it comes to the weather. No matter what Phil predicts, today we’re still on the upswing, towards Spring!
So why February 2nd, and the groundhog as spokesanimal? Here’s the story behind the famous forecaster and why his wild relatives snooze over the winter months: Ground Hog Day (February 2nd) has it’s roots 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 settles came to Pennsylvania’s to settle early in America’s history, they continued the tradition, exchanging the hedgehog for the more abundant, groundhog.
You may not want to put your Winter coat away just yet, but at least you can dream about the sunnier, warmer days that are to come. By February 2nd, the stress of the end of the year, and the holidays, is over. The days are technically getting longer (if not warmer), and Spring is the next phase of the year. Ground Hog day is so hopeful! After all, six more weeks of cold weather is still “do-able.” Ground Hogs are cute, and you can celebrate Ground Hog Day without giving gifts, or adhering to strict rituals.
However, I do think it’s a nice idea to send a groundhog day greeting to friends. This blog post is mine, to you!
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