Groundhog Day is both a Canadian and an American tradition celebrated on February 2nd each year.
It is the day that the groundhog comes out of his hole after winter hibernation to look for his shadow. Seeing his shadow will insure six more weeks of bad weather but if he does not spring is just around the corner.
Needless to say, statistical records do not support this and meteorologists do not rely on this information in their forecasts. (Or do they?)
The tradition comes from an old European belief involving Candlemas Day. Candlemas Day was also celebrated on February 2nd and is in honor of the purification of the Virgin Mary.
Candles to be used throughout the Church calendar year for scared events were blessed on this day. European folklore allowed that a sunny Candelmas Day would result in six more weeks of cold, wintry weather. There is an old Scottish rhyme: "If Candlemas Day is bright and clear, there'll be two winters in the year."
The use of an animal (a hedgehog) to substantiate whether the day was in fact "sunny enough" to predict further cold weather first started in the seventeenth century in Germany. In the eighteenth century German settlers brought the old tradition with them to America.
The combined efforts of newspaper editor Clymer H. Freas and Congressman W. Smith propagated the tradition and organized and promoted a yearly festival in (you guessed it) Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania.
Thus Punxsutawney Phil the groundhog was born and started his career of foretelling winter conditions. This very popular event still continues today.
Here in Ohio we have our own version - Buckeye Chuck.
In Canada the name of the groundhog that is used to predict the length of winter is Wiarton Willy.
Cleveland has it's own Conrad Casimir, the cat of John Niedzelak.
Statistically, Phil sees his shadow about 90% of the time. We can only hope that this year is one of the 10% that would bring us some warm weather.
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