Ground Hog Day

History of groundhog day, The history of this now American tradition stems from pagan and Christian holidays brought over from Europe that looked to hibernating animals to signal the end of winter. The Germans used hedgehogs as their weather guides. In Pennsylvania, early American settlers found groundhogs, not hedgehogs, and the forecasting began in the new country with a new rodent.

The story goes that on February 2, if the groundhog (also known as a woodchuck) emerges from its burrow and sees its shadow, there will be six more weeks of winter. No shadow means an early spring.

Thanks to the movie “Groundhog Day,” the marmot Punxsutawney Phil has reached celebrity status. The supposedly 125-year-old rodent, who gained fame in the comedy starring Bill Murray and Andie MacDowell, boasts a Facebook page along with media hype.

So how accurate is the forecast from Punxsutawney Phil? According to the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club, Phil’s reading is 100% accurate, natch. But the National Climatic Data Center disagrees, noting that its research shows “no predictive skill for the groundhog during the most recent years of this analysis.”

Groundhog or no, the first day of spring is officially March 20, and it can’t come soon enough.