Most days out of the year the weather is watched only to make sure we’re dressed appropriately when we leave for work that morning. We usually just want to know if it’s hot or cold out, if it’s going to rain, or if we should pretend to be sick and take the sunny day off for the beach. But, when the calendar swings around to February 2nd, our attention to the weather is more about an adorable groundhog than anything else.
Groundhog’s Day comes every year on this date and instead of looking to the shy for our weather — we all turn our eyes and ears to an unlikely source — a groundhog. Legend has it that if a groundhog who just emerges from his hibernation can see its shadow when he steps out, there will be six more weeks of winter. If the groundhog cannot see its shadow, spring is on the way. Thus brings Groundhog’s Day as we all eagerly await to hear how soon winter is going to end.
So, what is it about the groundhog that makes them so special that they get all our attention? How did “Groundhog’s Day” come about? The history is pretty interesting — so here are 7 quick, and fun facts about Groundhog’s Day:
1) According to FactMonster.com, groundhogs weren’t always the only rodent to be watched to predict the weather. Centuries ago in Europe, people looked for all hibernating animals including badgers, bears, and hedgehogs, as well as the groundhog to see any signs winter will be coming to an end.
2) Groundhogs were used as winter predictors finally in the mid-1800s when Europeans, who immigrated to Pennsylvania, started to use the groundhog, which is a similar hibernating rodent, due to their widespread population in the area, reports FactMonster.com
3) February 2nd is marked Groundhog’s Day not just because it’s a fun date, but it’s a date that falls between the winter solstice and the spring equinox, according to History.com. It’s also a date that is of significance for many reasons in several modern and ancient traditions.
4) History.com says the first ever Groundhog’s Day was created in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania on February 2, 1887 and was the “brainchild” of Clymer Freas, a local newspaper editor.
5) The “mascot” of Groundhog’s Day is a groundhog named Punxsutawney Phil, named after the town which it was created. His full name, according to About.com is actually “Punxsutawney Phil, Seer of Seers, Sage of Sages, Prognosticator of Prognosticators and Weather Prophet Extraordinary.”
6) These days, Phil spends his days off when he’s not predicting the weather, in a climate-controlled spot at the Punxsutawney Library. According to About.com, when it comes time to make his prediction, Phil is taken to the location and, “placed in a heated burrow underneath a simulated tree stump on stage before being pulled out at 7:25 am on Groundhog Day, February 2, to make his prediction.”
7) According to History.com, groundhogs may not be the best way of predicting how long winter will last. They report that the National Climatic Data Center and the Canadian weather service have studies that show the success rates of animals predicting the length of winter to be just under 40% — which isn’t a good track record!
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