One Busy Guy presents a history of ...
Has there ever been a less understood national awareness than Groundhogs' Day?
It is truly ludicrous. What possible connection could any small mammal have with the proper forecasting of Winters end? Indeed if not for the Bill Murray movie of the same name we would all know very much less! As your valued servant, favorite singer, and close friend I took it upon myself to locate the seat of wisdom. This is what I discovered.
The Groundhog or woodchuck (Marmota monax) is a member of the squirrel family weighing somewhere in the teens. They are basically burrowing vegetarians, though captives also thrive on dog food and ice cream. They have large gnawing teeth and are sometimes considered to be a nuisance by farmers. In my own rural, senior years the first day of woodchuck season would signal a large number of absentee hunters.
Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania was settled by the Delaware Indians in 1723. The town is 90 miles northeast of Pittsburgh at the intersection of routes 36 and 119. The Delaware believed their lives began as animals. Centuries later, they would emerge as men.
Roughly translated the word 'Punxsutawney' means 'the town of sand flies'... if you speak Delaware. The word 'Wojak' eventually resolved in pronunciation as 'woodchuck' whom the Delaware's believed to be an ancestral grandfather.
With passing time many German settlers appeared in the region and brought their tradition of 'Candlemas'. This is the center or midpoint of the winter season, February 2. Superstition held that if the weather was fair at the midpoint, the remainder of winter would be stormy and cold.
If the weather was crappy, winter would be somewhat (perhaps six weeks) shorter. Winter would linger if the woodchuck was frightened when the sun illuminated his own shadow. Early Christians often placed a lighted candle in each window on this date as a beacon to travelers and to lessen the darkness of winter.
Now the two traditions have become entwined. If the woodchuck sees his shadow when the weather is fair, there will be more bad Winter to follow. Apparently the Delaware Indians looked towards their ancestors for a correct reading on upcoming weather. Go figure.
Predictions have been correct only 39% of the time but it's still a hoot thinking about it. Yesterday I left my cabin and saw my own shadow in the hall... 6 more weeks on the ship!