Sunday, February 2, 2020

The Truth About Groundhog Day

All across the United States, and maybe even all around the world, people wait to see if the illustrious "Punxsutawney Phil", a groundhog, will see his shadow or not when he emerges from his hole in the morning. More often than not, he does because apparently this is usually a sunny day, and today was no exception after almost a solid week of cloudy weather in Southwestern PA (Punxsutawney is only a couple of hours away from where I currently live).

So then, usually it's the gloomy forecast that there will be six more weeks of winter. One year a few years ago though he didn't see his shadow and I heard that there were only six more weeks until spring and remembering the forecast from the year before I sauntered over to my calendar and started counting...and yep, sure enough, in the sixth week after today the Vernal/Spring Equinox occurs. So no matter what, from this day forward there's officially six more weeks of winter in the northern hemisphere no matter what the weather forecasts say.

So, why do we have a famous groundhog and celebrate him on this day? Apparently this is from a Pennsylvania Dutch tradition that they brought from their home country of Germany (PA Dutch are Germans, not Dutch, and that's a whole different story of the mangling of foreign languages that happens here in the US). Apparently in Germany, it's the badger that forecasts how much longer winter will last, only there it's four weeks of winter weather from Candlemas Day, which is also February 2nd. 

The most famous celebration is the one in Punxsutawney, PA, which started in 1886 but there are other celebrations around the country now as well, and in Canada where it's also recognized. So, it's a wee bit of fun for those who want something to celebrate in what is normally a cold and dreary winter month. For me, since I know that no matter what it's only six more weeks until the Vernal Equinox and first day of Spring, it makes no difference if any groundhogs or badgers see their shadows. 

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