The Groundhog hath spoken: Punxsutawney Phil hath decreed that spring shall cometh early this year.
Whatever “early” means.
Last Saturday was Groundhog Day, so called because the nation’s eyes all turn towards Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania to observe the prediction of the world’s most famous prognosticating rodent, Punxsutawney Phil.
The groundhog that is now older than a century (although it has actually been several groundhogs with the same name as they only live roughly 4-5 year in captivity) did not see his shadow on 7:30 AM on the morning of February 2nd, and therefore the elusive season of spring shall arrive earlier than usual.
And after a week of polar vortices bringing Arctic temperatures to the Midwest, we’re all pretty thankful for a bit of good news even if it is from a rodent with an accuracy rate of less than 50%.
This is the part where we all go into the rich history of Groundhog Day, but in reality, the tradition is steeped in silliness. The first recorded instance of Groundhog Day celebrations was penned back in 1840 by the quill of James L. Morris of Morgantown, in Pennsylvania Dutch Country. He didn’t take part himself, and instead just wrote how insane his German neighbors were for believing that a groundhog could predict the weather months in advance.
The Germanic tradition continued until it became official in 1887 when Groundhog Day was celebrated by the town’s newspaper, the Punxsutawney Spirit. Now, every year, a group of strange gentlemen in even stranger hats all gather around a gopher hole in Gobbler's Knob (about 65 miles out of Pittsburgh) to see if a groundhog casts a shadow or not.
Somehow, this tradition now gets tens of thousands of visitors every year. It’s even live-streamed on the internet.
However, nobody knows what “early” means. Spring officially begins on March 21st, but early could mean anything from a few weeks to a few days to a few hours.
Not that it really matters. Punxsutawney Phil has a success rate of anywhere between 36-47%, depending on your definition of the word “early”. This means you have a better chance of guessing when spring will arrive by flipping a coin.
But hey, groundhogs are cute, so we won’t complain too loudly.