It’s that time of year again when we rely on a little rodent to come out of its’ burrow to check whether it can see its’ shadow before deciding to go back to sleep for another six weeks. Every year we hope the groundhogs will bring good news of an early spring… but really, the stats are against the rodent. With Punxsutawney Phil only being 39% accurate, and Ontario’s Wiarton Willie, Nova Scotia’s Shubenacadie Sam and Alberta’s Balzac Billy being correct only 37% of the time. But, these stats don’t stop people from coming out every February 2nd to see what the rodent will predict. So, how did this bizarre celebration come to be?
Germans in Europe had a tradition of marking Candlemas as “Badger Day”. A badger emerged from its’ burrow hoping to find it sunny enough to create a shadow, foreshadowing another 4 weeks of winter to snuggle back in. Originally, the weather-predicting animal in Germany was the bear, but the animal was changed when bears became scarce in Germany.
When Germans began to immigrate to North America, they also brought their traditions. The first mention of Groundhog Day dates back to 1840, from a diary of James L Morris of Morgantown, in Pennsylvania Dutch Country. The first news report about Groundhog Day was made by the Punxsutawney Spirit in 1886, but wouldn’t be officially commemorated until 1887. Since the editor of the Punxsutawney Spirit was credited as the “father” who conceived the idea of “Groundhog Day”, it’s suggested that Punxsutawney is where all Groundhog Day events originated and from there spread to other locations across North America.
Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania holds the largest Groundhog Day celebration in the world with crowds as large as 40,000. The town’s year-round population is only 5,000 people. Punxsutawney Phil is about 131 years old; he is the same rodent that started forecasting in 1887…or everyone pretends he is. Want to learn more? Go to https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Groundhog_Day.
Happy Groundhog Day and let’s hope whatever groundhog you follow is accurate this year!
“The groundhog is like most other prophets; it delivers its prediction and then disappears.” – Bill Vaughn
Photo source: thoughtco.com, local.punxsutawneyspirit.com, blog.2shopper.com