In this week’s weather blog, we are talking about Groundhog Day. When I was a little kid, I vividly remember being excited for Groundhog Day every year. Our school would watch the video of the men in the big hats holding the rodent and we would find out if Spring was coming early or if Winter was going to stick around. (I would always selfishly hope Spring was going to come early because that meant my birthday wasn’t too far behind; I hadn’t quite grasped how a calendar worked yet. You have to love the innocence of a child!).
So, how did this even come about? According to the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club, it’s believed to have ties to a Christian holiday called Candlemas Day. On February 2nd, people would go to church to have their candles blessed because they believed those candles would bring blessings to their household through the rest of winter.
This old English folklore song was even written about it:
If Candlemas be fair and bright,
Come, Winter, have another flight;
If Candlemas brings clouds and rain,
Go Winter, and come not again.
As beliefs made their way around Europe, according to German lore, if a hedgehog saw his shadow on Candlemas Day, there would be six more weeks of bad weather.
When German settlers came to the United States, they picked a similar hibernating animal, which is how the day evolved to be about a groundhog.
The local paper in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania wrote about it in 1886, and then the next year on February 2, people started showing up to Gobbler’s Knob.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) describes the unofficial holiday as this:
“Every February 2, a crowd of thousands gathers at Gobbler’s Knob in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, to await a special forecast from a groundhog named Phil. If the 20-pound groundhog emerges and sees his shadow, the United States can expect six more weeks of winter weather, according to legend. But, if Phil doesn’t see his shadow, we can expect warmer temperatures and the arrival of an early spring.”
Phil has been “forecasting” (term used very loosely) since 1887 and doesn’t have a great track record. NOAA crunched the numbers and found out he has only gotten it right 40% of the time in the past decade.
Long story short: Take it with a grain of salt and just enjoy the fun celebration of weather. Spring 2022 will start on Sunday, March 20 for the Northern Hemisphere. And now that I’m older, I don’t need my birthdays to rush! 😊 Have a great week and thanks for watching Utah’s Weather Authority on FOX 13 News.