February 2 is Groundhog Day, where weather forecasters take a back seat to the noble cousin to the hedgehog – the groundhog – watching to see if it sees its shadow and hobbles back into his hole-in-the-ground-home, signaling another six-months of winter. Though if you’re a sun lover like me, you’re hoping the groundhog doesn’t retreat from fear of it’s own shadow, which means spring is just around the corner.
With all the people huddled around the poor animal’s burrow, it may turn and run away from the flash bulbs, television cameras, and weirdos dressed in tuxedos, winter coats and toques long before it can make its weather prediction.
Every year, the groundhog’s groundskeepers dress-up just for the occasion, only to get smeared with dirt and mud as they reach out and grab their precious four-legged furry creature to pose them for the news media gathered around.
Although the February 2 tradition goes back to the eighteenth century, if someone tried to grab the four-legged furry creature back then, they’d be lucky to be alive. European folk lore claims that a bear was used originally, and later, a badger replaced the bear.
According to the stories passed from generations, the celebration began as a medieval Catholic holiday called Candlemas, where a sacred bear was used to predict either the end or the continuation of winter. Though some historians say it goes back to the Pagan festival of Imbolc, which is the official change of seasons in the Celtic calendar, which just so happens to be February 2 as well.
Whichever historian you believe, Groundhog Day has taken roots in North American society, especially in towns with large Amish populations.
Some communities base their entire towns on this one day, using their groundhog as a community mascot. Gifts hops are adorned with stuffed groundhog toys of all sizes, restaurants name items on their menus after their groundhog, you can even buy groundhog candles in some towns, perfect for seeing your own shadow.
Though the question remains, who to believe? Weather forecasters with satellite, global positioning systems, RADAR tracking of weather patterns, and earth scientists, whose ear is constantly listening to their scientific gadgets and gizmos to generate not just weather forecasts, but also a deeper understanding of our planet, OR a rudely awoken four-legged furry creature that lives underground?
Despite all the mistakes weather forecasters seem to make – sometimes I wonder if they just look out the window to make their predictions – I’m putting my money on them and their informants, the earth and atmospheric scientists.
Besides, with all those bright camera lights beaming down on the furry four-legged creature, it is bound to see its shadow no matter what.