Why Do We Depend On A Rodent For Weather Forecasting?
Today people across the US will be waiting on bated-breath for a large rodent to signal the beginning of spring or more winter weather. How exactly did Groundhogs Day even begin? Why was it a groundhog and not say a gopher? Glad you asked, here's what we found out:
According to a report by History.com, the inception of Groundhog Day can be dated back to an ancient Christian tradition known as Candlemas which consisted of priests giving away candles to the people to use them during the winter season. The candles were said to represent the duration of the winter season.
The report further said Germans added to the concept and selected an animal — a hedgehog — to predict the weather. These Germans who traveled to the U.S. and settled in Pennsylvania continued to practice the tradition where they changed the animal from a hedgehog to a groundhog, because of a large population of the latter in Pennsylvania.
So how do we know if it's more of the same or an early start to spring? If the groundhog comes out of its hole after its hibernation period and notices its shadow against the sun, it would go back inside the hole which would mean that winter would last another six weeks. However, if there are clouds in the sky during the time when the groundhog comes out from the hole, then it means that the spring season will come early.
Of course the phenomena has spurned people congregating to the celebrated site in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, with a groundhog named Punxsutawney Phil. But Phil is not alone, several other cities claim they have the true weather predicting critter. Birmingham Bill is the groundhog for Groundhog Day in Alabama, Staten Island Chuck is the official groundhog for the ritual in New York City while Shubenacadie Sam is the groundhog for the occasion in Canada.
I wonder why Minnesota doesn't have a weather predicting animal, you'd think the gopher would be just as reliable as a groundhog. Maybe it doesn't have a big enough shadow.
This morning Phil saw his shadow...so here's to more of the same with another 6 weeks of winter.