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Monday, February 02, 2015

Groundhog Day Facts

First things first, congratulations to the New England Patriots for being the victors in Super Bowl XLIX.  Although I didn't watch the game, I heard that it was a really close one, and from what I hear, the Patriots came back from behind to win over the Seattle Seahawks 28-24. 

Again, congratulations New England Patriots on your win!

So, football fans, you now have to wait another 370 days for the 50th anniversary of the Super Bowl, scheduled for February 7, 2016.  Sounds like an eternity, doesn't it?

In the meantime, as the calendar changes over from February 1 to February 2, we find that we're celebrating another day that North Americans have a love-hate relationship with.

Ladies and gentlemen...welcome to Groundhog Day.

To some people, Groundhog Day doesn't even seem like much of a holiday in the first place.  It's not a statutory holiday, so we're still forced to attend work and school.  It's held on what is typically one of the coldest days of the year (especially if you live in Canada or the top half of the United States).  And the day brings forth much rage and anger towards this furry little creature.

Now, I suppose you ask...what could this little guy do that could make reasonable human beings like you and I go absolutely postal?  What could this little guy do that could make even sympathizers of PETA see red?

I suppose I should explain the tradition of Groundhog Day and how it all began before I continue.

Nobody really knows when the first observance of Groundhog Day was held, but it is estimated that Groundhog Day began in either the late 18th century or early 19th century in the state of Pennsylvania.  Based on the European folklore involving the prediction of weather, the groundhog "predicts" the weather by venturing outside and checking to see if he can see its shadow.

According to the legend of the groundhog, the saying goes like this.  If the groundhog happens to see his shadow, then he will retreat back into his burrow to continue hibernation.  If the groundhog is unable to see his shadow, then he will frolic in the great outdoors.

Or in simpler terms...

Shadow Yay = Late Spring
Shadow Nay = Early Spring

Or, even simpler than that - pray that February 2 is a cloudy day if you want spring to come earlier, rather than later.  February 2 is probably one day in which sunny weather is not welcomed at all, and if the groundhog happens to see his shadow, people who believe that the groundhog knows all will be very upset.

And if the groundhog claims that we'll have an early Spring, but we end up having snowstorms every four days until April, people would come after the poor guy with pitchforks, wanting him to suffer for his deception.

Not that I have ever wanted to go after a groundhog for getting the weather wrong.  To be honest, I kind of laugh at the idea of using a marmot to predict the weather and have never taken it seriously.  Because we all know that the groundhog is only right part of the time anyway.  And, what happens if the forecast for February 2 calls for a mix of sun and cloud?  You can't have your winter and not have it at the same time!

It is fascinating to see just how some communities come together to celebrate Groundhog Day.  Obviously, the largest Groundhog Day...upon lack of a better word...festival takes place in the state where the tradition was born.  And in the community of Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, the whole community and surrounding areas gather to hear the prediction of what its most famous resident, Punxsutawney Phil, has for this year.

Mind you, this is probably the 100th different Punxsutawney Phil that has existed since the first Groundhog Day was celebrated.  Not even the most agile of groundhogs can live over three hundred years! 

TRIVIA:  In fact, on average, the typical groundhog lives up to a maximum of nine years.

Even so, the prediction of Punxsutawney Phil is a highlight in what is otherwise a frosty time of the year.

And hey, Punxsutawney Phil appeared as "himself" in the 1993 film "Groundhog Day" which starred Bill Murray and Andie MacDowell.  Now, if you absolutely despise the day Groundhog Day, the movie "Groundhog Day" might make you crazy, as Bill Murray ends up caught in an infinite time loop where every day is "Groundhog Day".  Believe me, I would probably go crazy myself if every day was "Groundhog Day" myself.

No, actually, that's not true.  If I was caught in a time loop where every day was Valentine's Day, then I would go absolutely mental.

Anyway, going back to the day "Groundhog Day", I mentioned that the most famous of all the groundhogs is Punxsutawney Phil, but all over North America are other groundhogs representing their own communities in an effort to be the most accurate groundhog ever.

It's almost like a Miss America beauty pageant...only for groundhogs.

For instance, the closest groundhog near where I hail from is Wiarton Willie.  His success rate since debuting in 1956 has been a dismal 37% accuracy.  Not the greatest track record...but then again, I dismiss the notion of a groundhog being able to predict the weather anyway.  Still, the legend of Wiarton Willie lives on.

And, in other areas of the continent you can find other groundhog representatives.  In York, Pennsylvania, you can find Poor RichardWynter the Groundhog lives in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.  In Marion, Ohio resides Buckeye Chuck.  If you're in Nova Scotia, Canada, you may have heard of Shubenacadie Sam.  And in the community of Val d'Espoir, Quebec, the groundhog is named...Fred.

Nothing fancy.  Just Fred.  At least they didn't name it Poutine.

Coincidentally, today, Wiarton Willie predicted that we would have an early spring.  This is what I woke up to this morning.

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