The tradition of predicting how long Old Man Winter keeps us in his grip based upon whether the groundhog sees its shadow has ancient roots.
European’s celebrated Feb. 2 (winter’s midpoint) on Candlemas Day, a festival of lights that also included a folk song for predicting the arrival of spring.
If Candlemas be fair and bright, Come, winter, have another flight;
If Candlemas brings clouds and rain, Go winter, and come not again.
The German settlers of Pennsylvania brought the tradition along with their folk song:
For as the sun shines on Candlemas Day, So far will the snow swirl until the May.
Then the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club added a slight variation with Punxsutawney Phil, who has predicted Old Man Winter’s length since the first trek to Gobbler’s Hill in 1887.
These days we don’t think of the old folk songs. We’ve worry about two possibilities:
If the prognosticating groundhog (also known as a woodchuck, or whistle-pig), sees its shadow, it becomes frightened and scurries back into its burrow. This means six more weeks of winter.
If it’s cloudy and the groundhog does not see its shadow, he stays outside. This indicates a mild spring.
Last month on the 129th official Groundhog Day, Punxsutawney Phil predicted six more weeks of winter. Long Island’s Malverne Mel and Michigan’s Bill Murray went along with Phil’s forecast.
However, his country cousins – Staten Island’s Chuck, Georgia’s General Beauregard Lee, Ohio’s Buckeye Chuck and Las Vegas’ Mojave Max – all disagreed, predicting an early spring.
Stormfax says Phil has only been right 39% of the time. The Punxsutawney Groundhog Club boasts he has 100% accuracy.
This year I’m thinking Phil was spot on. If you’ve watched the news for the last four weeks you know most of the country is buried beneath a lifetime quota of snow, ice, and cold.
My concern is Phil’s six more weeks of winter ends on March 16. That’s two weeks from now. I’m not sure Old Man Winter will surrender.
In fact, as I write this, snow is coming down outside. The weather forecast is for nineteen inches with more snow next week. How on earth will those crocus and daffodils I planted last fall push through all the white stuff?
Please Old Man Winter, give it up. My daffodils beg you.
And, so do I!
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