Are you a lover of winter or spring? Groundhog Day has long been used as the barometer for indicating which way the weather will go for the next six weeks after February 2nd. But how is this predicted exactly? And where did this tradition begin? Read on for some fun facts about Groundhog Day.
Groundhog Day began February 2, 1887, with one of the smoothest marketing maneuvers of all time! Clymer Freas, editor of the Punxsutawney Spirit newspaper (and member of the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club) claimed that they had the world’s only weather-predicting rodent. What?! Who would proclaim such a ridiculous thing? And more importantly, who would believe it?!
Clymer Freas probably got a lot out of such a claim (increased newspaper sales anyone?) but the truth is, the tradition of using animals to determine the weather began even before Mr. Freas’ spotlight grab. Candlemas is a Christian holiday also celebrated on February 2nd, where candles were blessed and passed out to celebrate Jesus, known as “the light of the world.”
February 2nd is also the midway point between the winter solstice and the spring equinox. It was said that clear weather during Candlemas would equate a long winter. When Germans came to America in the 1700s, they brought the tradition of Candlemas with them and added a rodent into the equation, except their animal of choice was the hedgehog.
But claiming a rodent has the capabilities to predict the weather is of course, just a bit ridiculous. Groundhogs typically begin to hibernate at the end of fall and do not naturally re-emerge until around March or April. Poor Punxsutawney Phil has to get yanked out early every year!
Playing off of the Candlemas tradition, it is said that if Punxsutawney Phil sees his shadow (like he would on a sunny day) then 6 more weeks of winter is on the way. If Groundhog Day were on a cloudy day, it would make it harder for Phil to see his shadow and therefore would forecast a short winter.
So how the heck did Phil see his shadow today on such an overcast day? We may never know. But the rascally rodent has indeed predicted a long winter. If you live in a snowy part of the country, make sure you are prepared to weather the rest of the season safely. Have a question about perils related to winter? We’re here to help.
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