Several men dressed like Abe Lincoln will gather on a knoll tomorrow morning, proclamation in hand, and will proceed to yank a fat squirrel out of its heated den. Crowds who have gathered on this cold cold February morning will wait with bated or alcoholic breath, whichever comes first. Will Phil see his shadow? We must know.
Another Groundhog Day, another prediction. Will we have another six weeks of winter or will spring be right around the corner? According to Wikipedia, ” if it is cloudy when a groundhog emerges from its burrow on this day, then spring will come early; if it is sunny, the groundhog will supposedly see its shadow and retreat back into its burrow, and the winter weather will continue for six more weeks”. The Weather Channel is already telling us we are going to have six weeks of winter. So, why all the brouhaha over a sleepy chubby squirrel?
Ok, a groundhog is not a fat squirrel. I apologize. A groundhog is a member of the squirrel family, but much larger than the ones I see eating out of the bird feeder. Putting that aside, I’d still like to know how the people in a small Pennsylvania town decided years ago they have a weather prognostigator?
“Hey, look at that groundhog! I can see his shadow. Do you think that means something?” I mean, how did this weird ritual start?
And it is weird. Think about it. People drive from miles around to gather in the cold to watch the town leaders grab a sleeping groundhog from its luxury living quarters, hold it up, and then proclaim to the masses if there will be six more weeks of winter. The crowd will clap and yell “hoorah” or moan and go home…or back to the bar. When did we start believing a groundhog? Why not a raccoon? They are smart enough to take the lid off of a garbage can. Surely they too, can predict the weather?
Ok, I know we don’t really believe a groundhog, but how did the people of Pennsylvania believe in it enough over the years to create such a tribute to weather forecasting? I just had to know.
I have written several times about the little varmint Ground Beaver Day Groundhog Day Groundhog Day and a Haiku or Two in the past, but really never took a look at how this event started. I actually have this on my bucket list. Sure, why not drive up there one year just to say I did it?
Well, it looks like Groundhog day began as a German custom in the 18th century in this country. When German settlers arrived in the 1700s, they brought a custom known as Candlemas Day. Supposedly, a custom in ancient European weather lore used a badger or a hedgehog as the prognosticator. Seeing there aren’t too many badgers or hedgehogs in Pennsylvania, I guess the groundhog was the next best thing. It has been celebrated in Punxsutawney since 1886 or so. In Europe, it was the tradition on Candlemas Day for the church official to bless candles and hand them out to the people in the middle point of winter.It also has something to do with Mary and Jesus, but I didn’t want to go in that direction, so I ignored the religious meanings of the day. So, If the sun came out February 2, the mid point of the season, it meant six more weeks of winter. Tomorrow will be Punxsutawney Phil’s 127th prognostication.
Shouldn’t he be dead?
So, when you turn on the Weather Channel in the morning, you will undoubtedly witness the faux Abe Lincolns pulling a fat squirrel out of a den on Gobblers Knob in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. It’s a big deal. And maybe the ground hog will be alive, celebrating its 127th year of forecasting or maybe he is an imposter for the real Phil, who no longer sees his shadow. Regardless, it is a tradition in our country that is here to stay. In fact, there are many “Phil’s” in different parts of the country. Afterall, the weather in Florida is different than Pennsylvania. It is known as “The Sunshine State.” Of course Phil would see his shadow down there. And that surely wouldn’t mean six more weeks of winter in Florida. That means, “Hey, I saw my shadow because I am in freaking sunny Florida.”
Here are some of the other “Phil’s” that will be called upon this February 2:
French Creek Freddie – My home state of West Virginia.
North Carolina has five prognosticating groundhogs- Grady, Nibbles, Queen Charlotte, Sir Walter Wally, and Mortimer. ( I fancy the Sir Walter Wally moniker)
Tennessee- Chattanooga Chuck
Georgia- General Beauregard Lee
Canada- Wiarton Willy
New York- Staten Island Chuck
Ohio- Buckeye Chuck
I could go on and on. There are many famous fat squirrels that will be pulled out of their dens tomorrow.
Happy Groundhog Day! (Whatever the hell that means)