Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Groundhog Day

Do You Believe In It?
Groundhog Day from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Groundhog Day Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, USA Observed by United States and Canada

Whether the groundhog sees its shadow determines how much longer winter will last Date February 2 Celebrations Observing a groundhog emerging from its burrow and seeing whether it sees its shadow, announcing the result

Groundhog Day is an annual holiday celebrated on February 2. It is held in the United States and Canada. According to folklore, if a groundhog emerging from its burrow on this day fails to see its shadow, it will leave the burrow, signifying that winter will soon end. If on the other hand, the groundhog sees its shadow, the groundhog will supposedly retreat into its burrow, and winter will continue for six more weeks. The holiday, which began as a Pennsylvania German custom in southeastern and central Pennsylvania in the 18th and 19th centuries, has its origins in ancient European weather lore, wherein a badger or sacred bear is the prognosticator as opposed to a groundhog. The holiday also bears some similarities to the medieval Catholic holiday of Candlemas. It also bears similarities to the Pagan festival of Imbolc, the seasonal turning point of the Celtic calendar, which is celebrated on February 2 and also involves weather prognostication.

Modern customs of the holiday involve celebrations where early morning festivals are held to watch the groundhog emerging from its burrow. In southeastern Pennsylvania, Groundhog Lodges (Grundsow Lodges) celebrate the holiday with fersommlinge, social events in which food is served, speeches are made, and one or more g'spiel (plays or skits) are performed for entertainment. The Pennsylvania German dialect is the only language spoken at the event, and those who speak English pay a penalty, usually in the form of a nickel, dime or quarter, per word spoken, put into a bowl in the center of the table.

The largest Groundhog Day celebration is held in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, where crowds as high as 40,000 have gathered to celebrate the holiday since at least 1886. Other celebrations of note in Pennsylvania take place in Quarryville in Lancaster County, the Anthracite Region of Schuylkill County, the Sinnamahoning Valley and Bucks County. Outside of Pennsylvania, notable celebrations occur in the Frederick and Hagerstown areas of Maryland, the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, Woodstock, Illinois, and among the Amish populations of over twenty states and Canada. The University of Dallas in Irving, Texas has taken Groundhog Day as its official university holiday and organizes a large-scale celebration every year in honor of the Groundhog.

Groundhog Day received worldwide attention as a result of the 1993 film of the same name, Groundhog Day, which was set in Punxsutawney (though filmed primarily in Woodstock, Illinois) and featured Punxsutawney Phil.

The groundhog (Marmota monax) is a rodent of the family Sciuridae, belonging to the group of large ground squirrels.

An early American reference to Groundhog Day can be found in a diary entry, dated February 5, 1841, of Berks County, Pennsylvania storekeeper James Morris:

"Last Tuesday, the 2nd, was Candlemas day, the day on which, according to the Germans, the Groundhog peeps out of his winter quarters and if he sees his shadow he pops back for another six weeks nap, but if the day be cloudy he remains out, as the weather is to be moderate."

In Scotland the tradition may also derive from an English poem:

As the light grows longer
The cold grows stronger
If Candlemas be fair and bright
Winter will have another flight
If Candlemas be cloud and snow
Winter will be gone and not come again
A farmer should on Candlemas day
Have half his corn and half his hay
On Candlemas day if thorns hang a drop
You can be sure of a good pea crop

This tradition also stems from similar beliefs associated with Candlemas Day and Groundhog Day. Candlemas, also known as the Purification of the Virgin or the Presentation, coincides with the earlier pagan observance Imbolc.

In western countries in the Northern Hemisphere the official first day of Spring is almost seven weeks (46–48 days) after Groundhog Day, on March 20 or March 21. About 1,000 years ago, before the adoption of the Gregorian calendar when the date of the equinox drifted in the Julian calendar, the spring equinox fell on March 16 instead. This is exactly six weeks after February 2. The custom could have been a folk embodiment of the confusion created by the collision of two calendrical systems. Some ancient traditions marked the change of season at cross-quarter days such as Imbolc when daylight first makes significant progress against the night. Other traditions held that Spring did not begin until the length of daylight overtook night at the Vernal Equinox. So an arbiter, the groundhog/hedgehog, was incorporated as a yearly custom to settle the two traditions. Sometimes Spring begins at Imbolc, and sometimes Winter lasts 6 more weeks until the equinox.
[edit] Famous predictions and groundhogs

Groundhog Day proponents state that the rodents' forecasts are accurate 75% to 90%. A Canadian study for 13 cities in the past 30 to 40 years puts success rate level at 37%. Also, the National Climatic Data Center reportedly has stated that the overall predictions accuracy rate is around 39%.

WKBW-TV meteorologist Mike Randall put it a different way: since there are always six more weeks of winter after Groundhog Day, and the concept of early spring in the astronomical sense simply does not exist, then whenever the groundhog sees its shadow and predicts six more weeks of winter, the groundhog is always right, but whenever it predicts an early spring, it is always wrong. The results have an approximate 80% rate of accuracy, the average percentage of times a groundhog sees its shadow.
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11 comments:

Mental P Mama said...

I prefer to celebrate The Presentation to that of the rodent...although he is kinda cute;)

Arkansas Patti said...

Wow, some reseach you did. I love the Candlemas name over Groundhog day.
Until I moved to Arkansas from Florida, I could have cared less about the length of winter.
Since I love winter, I hope it lasts as long as possible.
That ought to get a few snowballs sent my way.

√ Abraham Lincoln said...

What a wonderful picture of a groundhog. We have had them here at home but only once or twice. If I had them I suppose we would end up with holes everywhere not to mention a family of groundhogs. Nice post, Patty.

mommanator said...

That animal is quite the looker huh, would scare me into a hole!

Reader Wil said...

Very interesting! I have never seen a groundhog, but I like this tradition! I enjoy looking at your family photos. My daughter Marjolein, doesn't want her photo shown on my blog.

The 4th Sister said...

Hello Patty....My address..
helensee@cox.net

Lady Di Tn said...

Groundhog history and one fat groundhog in the photo. He could not see his feet much less his shadow. LOL
My Grandma was the queen of the folk lore, which is much of what Mr. Ground Hog Day happens to be.
Peace be with ya.

Renie Burghardt said...

Wow, great research, Patty. We had a mostly cloudy day, but mild in the mid-40s and the snow has created a bunch of slush! I didn't see my groundhog yet this year. I think he is still napping. I put him on my blog last year. He is cute and friendly. I did see some Robins last week when we were in the 80s, scratching for worms in the front yard, but no sign of them the last couple of days. Maybe they went back South! Haha.

I enjoyed this post.

Renie

Steven (Cavite DP) said...

Wow Patty! Thank you so much for sharing about this Groundhog Day! Haven't heard of this yet till I got here. Very very interesting that these rodents are like Meteorology Majors who can predicts and give like 70 - 90% accurate results! Wow!

I also liked your article because it's about the four seasons. We don;t have such here in the Philippines but it does go cold from December till the end of January since the melting snow on Siberia goes with the wind and cools up Southeast Asia. But here in the Philippines, a folklore(which turns out to be right everytime) that when the Feast of the Our Lady of Candelaria is celebrate by early February, the the cold weather would immediately stop and the heat would envelop the whole country again!

Very Nice Post Patty! Very educational :D God Bless you and I would love to see you again on my Blog :D

Steven^^

Cheryl said...

Thanks for such an informative post Patty. I must admit I didn't realize just how big a day this was, with the customs and such. Very interesting! Whatever the results were today, please let spring come soon!!

Margaret Cloud said...

Boy, is that Groundhog fat. Very interesting facts, enjoyed reading them. I saw him on the Today show, but everyone knows there is six week of winter from February 2nd until March 20th.