For those non-Americans, un-Americans or anyone who hasn’t seen the Bill Murray movie of the same name, Groundhog Day is a traditionally unobserved holiday in most areas of the country, where, according to folklore, a groundhog will emerge from its burrow on February 2nd and essentially predict an early spring or a long winter. I write traditionally unobserved because where I live the holiday is hardly regarded at all. Though to be fair, in certain places in the United States Groundhog Day is a major, celebratory event–places such as Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania.
Punxsutawney claims the largest Groundhog Day celebration in the country. It also claims that its groundhog, Punxsutawney Phil, is not only the original groundhog of folklore, but that there is only one Phil (meaning, Phil is over a hundred years old; a creature of legend, rather than a real groundhog). To be honest, however, were it not for the late Harold Ramis’s film, Groundhog Day, I might never have heard about the town of Punxsutawney or Phil.
As far as the process of forecasting the beginning of spring, local folklore surrounding Groundhog Day states that if the groundhog emerges from its burrow on a cloudy February 2nd, then spring weather will start early. Otherwise, if it’s a sunny day and the groundhog sees its shadow and retreats back into its burrow, there will be six more weeks of winter weather. Thus the above comic.
Of course, it should be noted that even Punxsutawney Phil’s predictions have not been highly accurate in early-spring/late-winter predictions. But, then again, most weather men and women are fairly inaccurate in their predictions, because Mother Nature yet refuses to bend to the will of the human race.
Truth be told, despite my sarcasm, I do rather like the idea that such folklore is still alive somewhere in the US–a country nearly devoid of myth. Such absence of living myth, to me, is a great disappointment. I only wish that I had grown up closer to an area where the holiday is of greater importance; I think it’s wonderful–ridiculous as it may seem.
Perhaps one day I’ll make a trip to Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania and join in the festivities; hopefully before this tradition, like so many others, dies out.