February 2 just so happens to coincide with a major snowstorm in the midwest this year, so it’s funny to think that “the Seer of Seers,” Punxsutawney Phil, would not see his shadow, indicating an early spring. But I would think that seeing the sun would actually mean an early spring.
As a child I questioned how this groundhog could possibly know if it would be an early spring, but I always went along with the fun in trying to predict it myself. Will he or won’t he?
We were always hoping for the latter, to think that after many long, cold months of snow and ice, spring will come sooner than expected. We would be able to shed the heavy winter coats and venture outdoors in search of warm sunshine.
But the magic of Groundhog Day has seemed to vanish from my logical adult mind. The thought of an early spring is nice, but I have seen snow as late as May (anything is possible in Iowa). I no longer hold my breath for March 20 because it is not a good indicator that spring is really here.
Curious about the history of Groundhog Day, I came upon some interesting facts, finding out how the tradition of Candlemas Day, the midpoint between the Winter Solstice and the Spring Equinox, found its way to America to form a holiday all its own…Groundhog Day.
According to stormfax.com, “If the weather was fair, the second half of Winter would be stormy and cold. For the early Christians in Europe, it was the custom on Candlemas Day for clergy to bless candles and distribute them to the people in the dark of Winter. A lighted candle was placed in each window of the home. The day’s weather continued to be important. If the sun came out February 2, halfway between Winter and Spring, it meant six more weeks of wintry weather.”
As for the Groundhog Day itself, “Pennsylvania’s official celebration of Groundhog Day began on February 2nd, 1886 with a proclamation in The Punxsutawney Spirit by the newspaper’s editor, Clymer Freas: ‘Today is groundhog day and up to the time of going to press the beast has not seen its shadow.’ The groundhog was given the name ‘Punxsutawney Phil, Seer of Seers, Sage of Sages, Prognosticator of Prognosticators, and Weather Prophet Extraordinary’ and his hometown thus called the ‘Weather Capital of the World.’ His debut performance: no shadow – early Spring. The legendary first trip to Gobbler’s Knob was made the following year.” (Stromfax.com)
And yeah, it was a great movie, too.