Groundhog Day predicts the arrival of spring, according to Pennsylvania German folklore. If the groundhog, named Punxutawney Phil, emerges from his burrow on a cloudy day and does not see his shadow, then spring will come early.
However, if it’s sunny and he thus sees its shadow, he will retreat back into his burrow and winter weather will continue six weeks more.
When I was a child, this didn't make sense to me. It seemed if the sun was out, that would mean spring was on the way. However, it was explained to me that seeing his shadow would frighten him so that he would go back and hide.
Hmmm, that's just about as reasonable, and perhaps dependable, as expecting some high-paid television weather person to tell us what the weather's going to be!
According to Wikipedia:
- The celebration, which began as a Pennsylvania German custom in southeastern and central Pennsylvania in the 18th and 19th centuries, has its origins in ancient European weather lore, wherein a badger or sacred bear is the prognosticator as opposed to a groundhog.
- It also bears similarities to the Pagan festival of Imbolc, the seasonal turning point of the Celtic calendar, which is celebrated on February 1 and also involves weather prognostication and to St. Swithun's Day in July.
- The largest Groundhog Day celebration is held in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. Already a widely recognized and popular tradition, the day received widespread attention as a result of the 1993 film Groundhog Day, which was set in Punxsutawney.
- In southeastern Pennsylvania, Groundhog Lodges (Grundsow Lodges) celebrate the holiday with fersommlinge, social events in which food is served, speeches are made, and one or more g'spiel (plays or skits) are performed for entertainment. The Pennsylvania German dialect is the only language spoken at the event, and those who speak English pay a penalty, usually in the form of a nickel, dime, or quarter per word spoken, with the money put into a bowl in the center of the table.
- Modern customs of the holiday involve celebrations where early morning festivals are held to watch the groundhog emerging from its burrow.
According to the StormFax Weather Almanac and records kept since 1887, Punxsutawney Phil's weather predictions have been correct 39% of the time. The National Climatic Data Center has described the forecasts as "on average, inaccurate" and stated that "The groundhog has shown no talent for predicting the arrival of spring, especially in recent years."
It has been reported that the groundhog didn’t see his shadow yesterday, which means that spring will arrive soon. Let’s hope Punxutawney Phil beats the odds and his prediction is correct!
Maybe they should just designate a female groundhog to replace Phil and see how accurate she can predict spring's arrival.
Or perhaps this lady in her lovely white summer skirt?
What do you think?