Today is Groundhog Day, which is celebrated on February 2nd each year. Legend has it that we should be able to find out today whether spring will come early or winter will stay around for another six weeks. If you are eager to relax again by the pool at your apartment community, this may be important news. The fact is the truth is a little harder to come by.
Everything depends on the lowly groundhog, the most famous of which lives in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania and is named Phil. Punxsutawney Phil and Groundhog Day are so famous that in 1993 a major motion picture starring Bill Murray as a reporter covering the celebration hit theaters.
Early on the morning of February 2nd, people gather to watch a groundhog’s burrow, waiting for him (or her) to emerge. If it sees its shadow and retreats back into the burrow, then winter is supposed to last another six weeks. Basically, this means that if it is sunny this morning in southeastern Pennsylvania, we’re stuck with winter. If it is cloudy, we get a reprieve and spring will be here soon. It seems like it should be the other way around, but that’s the custom.
The celebration in the U.S. began in the 18th century, but traces its roots back to ancient times in Europe. The early weather prognosticators were usually badgers or bears, and some say the custom was created due to the clash of two different calendrical systems. The animals were used to settle argument between the two traditions.
How accurate are these weather predictions? If you ask the Groundhog Day organizers, they say they are accurate 75-90% of the time. Two different studies say that the groundhog (also known as a woodchuck) has only been accurate 37-39% of the time. And the authoritative National Climatic Data Center says the forecasts are “on average, inaccurate” and even more importantly that “the groundhog has shown no talent for predicting the arrival of spring, especially in recent years.”
So our advice is to just ignore the groundhog’s predictions, but enjoy the celebration. February can be a dreary month, so an event of your own may be just the ticket. In anticipation of spring, check out these tips for a Green party. Be sure to offer local beer, wine, and food. Pretend you are someplace warm, because no matter what the little rodent says, the official first day of spring is just seven weeks away.
Have a Happy Groundhog Day!