2 February 2020
Today the world’s most famous groundhog, Punxsutawney Phil in Jefferson County, Pennsylvania, predicted the weather for the next six weeks. He says we’ll have an early spring.
Groundhog Day is the mid-point of the celestial winter, a cross quarter day that marks the halfway point between solstice and equinox. According to Wikipedia, Celtic and Germanic tradition says that if the hedgehog sees his shadow today winter will last 6 more weeks. (It will anyway; today is 6 weeks before the equinox.) If he doesn’t see his shadow we’ll have an early spring. At dawn in Punxsutawney it was overcast with light snow — no shadow, early spring.
There aren’t any hedgehogs on this continent so immigrants substituted the groundhog (Marmota monax) for their annual tradition.
In the early days groundhogs didn’t hang out near people but they soon learned we have something they want. Food!
We also provide shelter, though unintentionally. Groundhogs use our buildings and concrete structures to make burrows for sleeping, rearing young, and hibernating.
Groundhogs will emerge from their burrows this spring in Pittsburgh, probably later this month. I know they live in Greenfield (near my backyard!) and Andrew Mumma has seen them near Pitt. They’re something to look forward to.
Happy Groundhog Day!
(photos from Wikimedia Commons; click the captions to see the originals)