Fun Fact February 3, 2020
3 February 2020
So how did a groundhog become the official weather forecasting rodent? The roots of groundhog day go way back and actually has Christian roots. In Germanic countries in Europe residents celebrated Candlemas, which was primarily a Catholic tradition where a badger was the forecasting animal. Various other hibernating animals, including bears, were also used in other regions. So, if it was sunny on Candlemas, the animal will see its shadow and scurry back into their den, thus “predicting” a prolonged winter. If however the animal didn’t see it’s shadow spring would arrive early. When the people from those areas came to the United States they brought their Candlemas tradition with them. Since groundhogs were plentiful and badgers were not, the groundhog, or woodchuck, was promoted to official forecaster. The first recorded celebration of groundhog day in Pennsylvania was in 1840 in a diary of a James Morris, who was Welch but who lived in the Pennsylvania Dutch country. He described what his Dutch neighbors had celebrated. The first reported news of a Groundhog Day observance was arguably made by the Punxsutawney Spirit newspaper of Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, in 1886. However, it was not until the following year in 1887 that the first Groundhog Day considered “official” was commemorated there, with a group making a trip to the Gobbler’s Knob part of town to consult the groundhog. Thousands of people make the trek to Punxsutawney every year to witness, and even more watch a live stream feed of the event, to get first hand the prediction from Punxsutawney Phil. Although Phil is the most famous groundhog, New Jersey has Milltown Mel, there is Sun City Sue in the mid western United States, Staten Island Chuck in New York, in North Carolina you’ll find Sir Walter Wally, in DuPont Circle in Washing D. C. there is Potomac Phil and in Georgia you’ll find General Beauregard Lee, to name just a few. None of these prognosticating rodents have a very good accuracy record however. I hate to burst your bubble and dash your hopes for an early spring, but if you look at a calendar and count from February 2 to the first day of Spring you’ll find it’s slightly more than six weeks. Sorry.
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