According to Punxsutawney Phil, we need to keep those snow shovels, snow blowers, and winter clothes handy for a few more weeks. The cold of winter will remain. And the air will continue to smell of burning wood from fireplaces as residents keep themselves warm.
On Feb. 2, Groundhog Day, Phil emerged from his den to let us all know whether spring is near or if there will be more winter weather on the way. Tradition says that if he sees his shadow, there will be another six weeks of winter; if he doesn’t see his shadow, a wet and warm spring is soon to come.
Groundhog Day has its origins in the ancient past, when early Europeans looked for ways to predict the weather. During the winter, people looked for signs seeking the arrival of better weather, and they trusted the appearance of certain animals to indicate these natural events.
The groundhog tradition stems from similar beliefs of early Christians and Candlemas Day, an important day in the European calendar which marked the approaching end to winter. It came at the mid-point between the Winter Solstice and the Spring Equinox…Feb. 2. If the day was bright and sunny, they believed, an animal would cast a shadow, thus predicting six more weeks of winter. If it was cloudy and wet, spring was just around the corner.
Early Germans long relied on the hedgehog and his shadow to make an appearance to signal the end of winter. When German settlers arrived in Pennsylvania in the 1700s, only to find no hedgehogs, they began to watch the groundhogs. They determined that the groundhog most resembled the European hedgehog, and since it was a most intelligent and sensible animal, the observance continued into modern times. They also brought with them the tradition of Candlemas Day.
It was on this day, according to the Germans, the groundhog would pop his head out of his hole and if he saw his shadow, he'd pop back in for another six weeks for a longer winter nap; but if the day was cloudy, he'd remain out since the weather would be moderate.
Today, the largest and most famous Groundhog Day celebration is held at Gobbler’s Knob in Punxsutawney, Pa., with a groundhog named Punxsutawney Phil. This year was his 126th prognostication.
Prior to being called Phil, he was called Br’er Groundhog. It is unsure when, or why, but at some point, he was named Phil—after King Philip.
Metacom, or King Philip, as the colonists named him, was the second son of Chief Massasoit of the Wampanoaug Tribe of Indians who helped the pilgrims through their first winter in 1620. He became leader of the Wampanoaug Confederacy in 1662 and was also known as Metacomet and Philip of Pokanoket.
So…enjoy yourself. Winter will be here for a few more weeks. Keep warm and watch for any more of those white flakes falling from the sky.