Saturday, January 31, 2009
Groundhog Day in United States
The Official Punxsutawney Groundhog Club
Ever seen a groundhog? Does it really predict the coming of Spring?
I have my doubts, but it is a great tourist attraction for Punxsutawney, PA. They have a whole weekend of activities and specials that started yesterday. It's amazing what a groundhog can do for a town.
The groundhog phenomenon has been around in the US since the 1800's and the basic notion is if the groundhog sees his shadow, there will be six more weeks of winter weather. If he does not see his shadow, there will be an early spring. It's origins are little further back though. German tradition holds that if the sun comes out on Candlemas, which is February 2nd as well, the badger will see its shadow and six more weeks of winter will follow. When German settlers came to Pennsylvania they continued this tradition, using groundhogs instead of badgers to predict the weather.
And in case you weren't familiar with Candlemas Day, it is celebrated on February 2nd and marks the halfway point of winter, between the shortest day and the Spring, or vernal, equinox. It was the day the candles that were to be used in the church were blessed for the coming year. Candles were very important in ancient times, as many believed they staved off famine and the plague and warded against evil spirits.
The town of Punxsutawney, PA has a groundhog they named Phil around 120 years ago, and he's the groundhog to watch come February 2nd. There is even a Hollywood movie named "Groundhog Day".
I've never been one to heed the wisdom of a furry rodent, so I have my doubts. But there's even an Official Punxsutawney Phil's Souvenirs website so you too can get your souvenirs even if you can't make it out to Punxsutawney. I still think Spring will come on the equinox whether we want it to or not, no matter what Phil predicts.
Happy Groundhog Day!