This Friday is Groundhog Day. Do you make it a habit to tune in on television to see if Punxsutawney Phil sees his shadow, indicating we will have six more weeks of dreary winter? If he doesn’t “see” his shadow, we are to believe we are in for an early spring. I don’t know about you, but I am pulling for an early spring.
Groundhog Day is midway between the winter solstice and the spring equinox and Feb. 2 has been an important date for centuries. The Celts considered the day as marking the first day of spring and celebrated with a big Pagan festival called Imbolc. As Christianity spread throughout Europe, Imbolc became Candlemas, a feast celebrating when Jesus Christ was at the holy temple in Jerusalem.
Some European groups believed that if the weather was particularly sunny on Candlemas, there would be another 40 days of dreary, wintery weather. Apparently the Germans were the ones to claim that if animals saw their shadows that day, there would be more cold weather ahead. Numerous German immigrants settled in Pennsylvania in the 18th and 19th centuries, and they brought with them this tradition of predicting the weather, choosing the groundhog as their animal who would check his shadow and forecast the weather.
The first official Groundhog Day was on Feb. 2, 1887 in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. A local newspaper editor named Clymer Freas thought up the idea of having a celebratory town meeting at a place in town known as Gobbler’s Knob. Freas got local businessmen involved as well as the local Groundhog hunting club. The rest, as they say, is history.
You have all no doubt seen the festivities in Punxsutawney — the local dignitaries get dressed up wearing top hats and make a big deal about holding old Punxsutawney Phil the groundhog to see if he sees his shadow. Have you ever wondered how successful Phil is when it comes to actually predicting? As it turns out, not so much.
Believe it or not, many groups and organizations over the years have analyzed how accurate the groundhog’s predictions have been. One almanac claimed Phil was correct only 39 percent of the time — that sounds sort of like many of the weather people I listen to.
Have you ever seen the 1993 movie “Groundhog Day,” in which Bill Murray stars as a disgruntled and nasty weather forecaster?
If you like Bill Murray’s humor, the movie is hilarious. Murray is in Punxsutawney to cover the Groundhog Day festivities with his producer and camera man. Murray thinks the assignment is stupid, along with all of the participants. A big storm rolls in and the crew ends up having to spend the night in the town.
As fate would have it (and the point of the movie), Murray wakes up in the morning, and all of the mornings after that, on Groundhog Day, reliving the day again and again. If you haven’t seen the movie, or if it has been awhile since you have, why not check it out today or this weekend? It will surely make you laugh.
Whether Punxsutawney Phil sees his shadow this Friday or not, I for one am celebrating that there are only 46 more days until spring is officially here.
South Forsyth resident Adlen Robinson is author of “Home Matters: The Guide to Organizing Your Life and Home.” E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.