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BONNIE'S GARDEN--Groundhog Day

Every year as many as 30,000 people travel to Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, for Groundhog Day to see what Punxsutawney Phil has to offer.  This year, Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow and predicted six more week of winter.  So what the heck is a Groundhog, anyway?  How often is he right?  And how did all this Groundhog business get started?

A groundhog is a rodent, related to marmots (ground squirrels) and squirrels.  They’re also known as woodchucks.  Woodchuck come from the Native American word “Wojak” from a legend about Wojak the Groundhog.  Groundhogs are common animals in the Northern Eastern and Central U. S. and southern Canada.  They are burrowing vegetarians and can be serious garden pests.

So how did the whole groundhog-predicting-the-weather get started?  Groundhog Day is based on ancient European folklore.  Superstition had it that if Candlemas Day (a religious observance on February 2, halfway between the Winter Solstice and the Spring Equinox) was fair, then winter wasn’t over yet.  Some people held the belief that badgers or magical bears forecast when spring would arrive.  German settlers to Pennsylvania brought this folklore with them.  The oldest known American reference to Groundhog Day goes back to a Morgantown, PA shopkeeper in 1841.

Punxsutawney Phil is not the only groundhog known for predicting the weather.  There is also Buckeye Chuck.  Chuck goes back to the 1970’s and in 1979 was named the Official State Woodchuck of Ohio.  By the way, while Punxsutawney, PA is the largest Groundhog Day celebration, it is not the only one.  Other celebrations of note are in Buck County, PA, Lancaster County, PA, the University of Dallas in Texas, and Nova Scotia.

So how accurate is Punxsutawney Phil? According to Stormfax.com, Phil is right only about 39% of the time.  NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center has stated that the “groundhog has shown no talent for predicting the arrival of spring…”  On the other hand, Phil predicted six more weeks of winter last year.  Maybe that explains the snow we had in March and the late frost the end of April…
Posted: 2/2/2015 by Bonnie Pega | with 0 comment(s)
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