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Groundhog Day

From Academic Kids

Groundhog Day is a traditional festival celebrated in the USA and Canada on February 2.

Tradition states that one must observe a groundhog's burrow on this day. If the groundhog emerges and fails to see its shadow because the weather is cloudy, winter will soon end; however, if the groundhog sees its shadow because the weather is bright and clear, it will be frightened and run back into its hole, and the winter will continue for six more weeks. Certain small towns have well-known meteorological groundhogs, such as Punxsutawney Phil (depicted by the Groundhog Day movie), General Beauregard Lee in suburban Atlanta, Georgia, and Wiarton Willie. Recently Shubenacadie Sam was introduced in Nova Scotia and Balzac Billy in Balzac, Alberta. The official groundhog forecaster for New York City is Staten Island Chuck.

The tradition of Groundhog Day originated in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania on February 2, 1887. In the U.S. the tradition derives from a Scottish couplet:

If Candlemas Day is bright and clear,
there'll be two winters in the year.

This tradition also stems from similar beliefs associated with Candlemas Day [1] (http://www.groundhog.org/history/tradition.shtml) and Hedgehog Day. Although the date is often referred to as one of the four quarter days of the year (the midpoints between the spring and fall equinoxes and the summer and winter solstice), it is in fact one of the cross-quarter days[2] (http://www.noblenet.org/year/groundhog.html).

Indeed, bright clear weather in a North American winter is often associated with very cold temperatures.

In western countries the official first day of Spring is approximately six weeks after Groundhog Day; six weeks plus four days (March 20), to be exact. In fact, about 1,000 years ago, before the adoption of the Gregorian calendar and because the day of the equinox drifted while using the Julian calendar, the spring equinox fell on March 16. This is exactly six weeks after February 2. Assuming that the equinox marked the first day of spring in certain medieval cultures, as it does now in western countries, Groundhog Day occurred exactly six weeks before spring. Therefore, if the groundhog saw his shadow on Groundhog Day there would be six more weeks of winter. If he didn't, there would be 42 more days of winter. In other words, the Groundhog Day/Hedgehog Day tradition may have begun as a bit of folk humor.

Past predictions

  • 2005
    • 6 more weeks of winter -- Punxsutawney Phil, Shubenacadie Sam
    • early spring -- General Beauregard Lee, Wiarton Willie, Balzac Billy, Staten Island Chuck
  • 2004
    • 6 more weeks of winter -- Punxsutawney Phil, Wiarton Willie, Balzac Billy, General Beauregard Lee
    • early spring -- Shubenacadie Sam

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