Recently, by emerging from the burrow and glimpsing own shadow, the most famous groundhog worldwide, called Pennsylvania's Punxsutawney Phil, has predicted six more weeks of the wintry weather, although his rivals, Staten Island Chuck and Wiarton Willie, have brought welcome news of an early spring. If you are willing to know why Americans, Canadians, and other people stick to the weather predictions of these furry rodents, just continue reading!
History and Facts
Some ancient and modern cultures consider February 2 as a day of considerable importance, which falls in the middle of the winter solstice and the spring equinox. Traditionally, on this day, called Imbolc, the Celts celebrated the beginning of spring. With the development of Christianity throughout Europe, Imbolc turned into Candlemas, which commemorated Jesus presentation at the Jerusalem holy temple. Meanwhile, some Christians regarded a sunny Candlemas as a harbinger of 40 cold and snowy days. However, according to a German legend, the day would be glorious only if badgers and other furry animals glanced at their shadows. In the 18-19th centuries, the Germans immigrated to Pennsylvania, taking this custom with them and pronouncing a groundhog the annual weather forecaster.
The celebration of the first Groundhog Day occurred on February 2, 1887, in a small Pennsylvanian town Punxsutawney. Clymer Freas, being an editor of a local newspaper, sold the idea of celebrating this day to a bunch of groundhog hunters, known as the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club. The members of the club hiked to Gobbler’s Knob where the inaugural groundhog, glancing at his shadow, became a sign of bad tidings.
At the present day, the annual Punxsutawney festivity is held by the local noblemen, who wear top hats and carry out the official part of the event in the Dutch dialect. Each year, Punxsutawney hosts tens of thousands tourists who are curious about the Groundhog Day.
In fact, sunny winter days are explained by cold and dry air, which implies that groundhogs cannot become fully-fledged meteorologists. Nevertheless, National Climatic Data Center and the Canadian weather service discovered that 40 percent of the groundhogs’ predictions were truthful.
For the last three decades, inhabitants of Vermillion, Ohio, have relied on the weather forecasts of a different creature, the wooly bear caterpillar. The thing is, if the coloring of the insects is more orange than black, the forthcoming winter will be fairly warm. Approximately 100,000 people visit a local Wollybear Festival, organized each autumn since 1972.
Groundhogs, in other words woodchucks, are the representatives of the animal group of marmots, also called ground squirrels. This species can grow up to 25 inches and live for about ten years in captivity. As a matter of fact, the legend maintains that Punxsutawney Phil is at the age of 125 years owing to the magical drink he savors every summer. In reality, groundhogs spend winter months in hibernation, which decreases their metabolism and body temperature. After the awakening, the rodents consume wild berries, plants, and animals, also devouring agricultural crops and garden vegetables.