No matter how mild or cold the winter, we can all agree that by the tail end of it, we’re eagerly awaiting the arrival of spring. The desire for warm weather paved the way for a custom that breaks the isolation of winter and brings people together. That custom has been going on in America for centuries – you may know it as Groundhog Day.
Every February 2, neighbors and strangers unite to witness a nervous little groundhog’s actions. As the story goes, if the lil’ guy sees his shadow, he’ll feel frightened and retreat into his burrow. You might as well retreat too because this predicts a long winter – six more weeks to be exact. If the day happens to be overcast and no evil shadow lurks about, the groundhog will stay out, indicating an early spring.
The custom originates from European weather lore – which revolved around a bear or badger. Some smart fellow realized the pitfalls of trying to make a wild bear the focal point of community gatherings; it would be mayhem. And could you imagine if people tried capturing badgers – even worse honey badgers? Like you could convince one of those buggers to help out with a community event. Don’t bother because honey badger don’t care.
The American version opted to use groundhogs. The first event on record took place in 1841 in a small Pennsylvania village called Morgantown. The crux of the custom remains the same: If the groundhog sees its shadow, there will be six more weeks of winter. But the Groundhog Day pioneers lacked some of the more entertaining aspects of the current cultural event, such as the kooky names given to today’s four-legged aspiring meteorologists.
But just how accurate are these claims? A study by StormFax Weather Almanac examined the accuracy of Punxsutawney Phil’s predictions and found that he’s correct about 39% of the time. Don’t worry Phil, you’re right on par with today’s meteorologists.