Spring seems so far away, yet it is almost time for Punxsutawney Phil, Staten Island Chuck, General Beauregard Lee, and many others to emerge from their winter den to predict the weather for the remainder of winter. While there is not much actual science behind the holiday, this rodent’s prediction is highly coveted as the hope for an early end to the icy, snowy weather is anticipated.
Where did the idea for this holiday come from? February 2nd has been a significant day in winter for centuries. This date reflects the midpoint of winter, halfway between the solstice and the equinox. From the Pagan holiday (Ibolc) to the Christian holiday (Candlemas), many past celebrations have marked this midwinter point.
The first mention of weather prediction on Candlemas day comes from the Germans. This date was also a day for the farmers to assess their feed supply, and predict if they would have ample supply for the remainder of the season, or skinny cows come spring.
The early German settlers brought their weather predicting traditions to America. Instead of a hedgehog, or a badger the groundhog fit the bill to be woken from his hibernation and predict the duration of the remaining winter. The first reference to Groundhog Day in Pennsylvania was in 1841, the first reporting in the newspaper was in 1886, and the first time Punxsutawney Phil emerged from Gobbler’s Knob was one year later in 1887.
Through 2013 Punxsutawney Phil has seen his shadow 100 times predicting more winter, and only 17 times has he predicted an early spring. What will the prediction be in 2014? Find out at 7:30 on Sunday morning.
Celebrate with this groundhog coloring page! And learn more in Prairie Storms by Darcy Pattision.
Information for this post gathered from http://www.groundhog.org/, and mental_floss http://mentalfloss.com/article/29889/where-did-groundhog-day-come.