Groundhog Day, Winter Weather & The World’s Most Entertaining Rodent

In case you didn’t know, today is Groundhog Day.

Remember the movie, “Groundhog Day”?
Although the plot about the main character having to repeat Groundhog Day every day until he becomes a nicer person is farfetched to say the least, Groundhog Day itself is an actual day.

Groundhog Day, Winter Weather & The World’s Most Entertaining Rodent

Groundhog Day, Winter Weather & The World's Most Entertaining Rodent

Groundhog Day, immortalised by the 1993 film starring Bill Murray, is celebrated across the United States and Canada and dates back to the 19th century, and possibly earlier. Although events take place elsewhere in the United States, the Punxsutawney event is by far the largest celebration, drawing in crowds as large as 40,000.

Punxsutawney Phil is Punxsutawney’s groundhog, a large squirrel like rodent, and the only groundhog who matters, “[He] is the only true weather forecasting groundhog. The others are just impostors!”

Here’s a bit of the history behind it:

Firstly, the groundhog, also known as a woodchuck, or whistlepig, is a rodent of the family Sciuridae, belonging to the group of large ground squirrels known as marmots.

The celebration, which began as a Pennsylvania German custom in southeastern and central Pennsylvania in the 18th and 19th centuries, has its origins in ancient European weather lore, wherein a badger or sacred bear is the prognosticator as opposed to a groundhog. It also bears similarities to the Pagan festival of Imbolc (the seasonal turning point of the Celtic calendar, which is celebrated on February 1 and also involves weather prognostication) and to St. Swithun’s Day in July 15.

The first documented American reference to Groundhog Day can be found in a diary entry, dated February 4, 1841, of Morgantown, Pennsylvania, storekeeper James Morris:

“Last Tuesday, the 2nd, was Candlemas day, the day on which, according to the Germans, the Groundhog peeps out of his winter quarters and if he sees his shadow he pops back for another six weeks nap, but if the day be cloudy he remains out, as the weather is to be moderate.”

There are alternative origin theories, though. These are:

In western countries in the Northern Hemisphere, the official first day of spring is almost seven weeks (46–48 days) after Groundhog Day, on March 20 or March 21. The custom could have been a folk embodiment of the confusion created by the collision of two calendrical systems. Some ancient traditions marked the change of season at cross-quarter days such as Imbolc when daylight first makes significant progress against the night. Other traditions held that spring did not begin until the length of daylight overtook night at the Vernal Equinox. So an arbiter, the groundhog/hedgehog, was incorporated as a yearly custom to settle the two traditions. Sometimes spring begins at Imbolc, and sometimes winter lasts six more weeks until the equinox.

So how accurate are Punxsutawney Phil’s predictions?

The Groundhog Day website would state 100% accuracy.

“How often is Phil’s prediction correct? 100% of the time, of course!”

But that’s not quite true!

A Canadian study for 13 cities in the past 30 to 40 years found that the weather patterns predicted on Groundhog Day were only 37% accurate over that time period.
According to the StormFax Weather Almanac and records kept since 1887, Punxsutawney Phil’s weather predictions have been correct 39% of the time. The National Climatic Data Centre has described the forecasts as “on average, inaccurate” and stated that “the groundhog has shown no talent for predicting the arrival of spring, especially in recent years.”

Although we may not have world renowned weather predicting large rodents on our books, we have entertainers that are sure to make your event one to remember with 100% accuracy all of the time! Give us a shout to find out more:

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