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The origin of Groundhog Day and 2013 predictions

Updated on March 26, 2013
Punxsutawney Phil
Punxsutawney Phil | Source

Every February 2nd we wait for the groundhog to emerge from it's burrow to see if spring will be coming early or if there's another 6 weeks of winter. There are several groundhogs in different states and provinces that predict if winter will end early but the two notable groundhogs are Punxsutawney Phil in Pennsylvania and Wiarton Willie in Wiarton, Ontario.

For the record, both of these groundhogs did not see their shadow. According to folklore, if it is cloudy when the groundhog emerges and doesn't see his shadow, we will have an early spring. If it is sunny, the groundhog will see his shadow and go back into its burrow. Sadly this would mean that we would have six more weeks of winter. Thankfully this year it appears that we will be lucky and all this snow will be gone sooner rather then later.

Just how accurate are groundhog predictions? If you ask Groundhog Day organizer, they will say they're accurate 75 to 90% of the time. If you look at an actual study, it's more in the rage of 39% accurate So are his predictions reliable? Not really no, but people seem to enjoy hearing what the groundhog has to say about the weather so they can either breathe a sigh of relief that winter will soon be over or so that they can breathe a sigh of despair that winter will still be here a while. Or vise-versa, if you're a fan of winter and the cold.

Wiarton Willie
Wiarton Willie | Source

But where did the tradition come from? The celebration itself as we know it is a Pennsylvania German custom from the 18th and 19th centuries. Their celebration originated in an ancient European weather lore. However, instead of a groundhog, they looked to either a badger or a sacred bear.

The celebration co-incides with several other holidays, such as Candlemas where it's own set of weather folklore exist. In Serbia, on February 2nd, they celebrate a similar holiday where the bear emerges from hibernation to inspect the weather and if it sees it's shadow, in its sleepy state, it will get scared and return to their lairs, it means that severe weather will continue for another 40 days.

Is any of this truly a good indicator of the end of winter? No. But it is nice to hope that winter will soon be over and that warm weather will be back soon.


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