CLAIR: If you don’t like the Groundhog Day forecast, you can just eat the little varmint
Ah, yes. The warm weather has returned and the bitter winter we’ve experienced is now a past memory. But wait, what does Punxsutawney Phil have to say about that???
Where in the world did we come up with this crazy notion that a groundhog was the teller of all that is weather? If he was so great, why wasn’t he on the back of a baseball card. Hmmm? How can you call someone great if they never had their picture on a baseball card.
But seriously, where did this tradition come from? It goes back to European tradition, celebrating the midpoint between the winter solstice and the spring equinox. And it blends a Celtic calendar and a Christian holiday called Candlemas. Candlemas is timed to when Joseph and Mary presented Jesus at the Temple in Jerusalem.
Farmers would monitor the sun and moon cycles and animal behavior to guide them on farming practices. Originally, it was the bears and badgers who raised from hibernation that they observed. But for the sake of safety, they chose to designate a groundhog instead. So if the animals internal drive motivated them to start foraging for food again, that usually meant that warmer weather was on the way. For groundhogs, being a solitary creature, it was the beginning of mating season.
But how did he get his name?
Well, Punxsutawney is actually a region where the Pennsylvania Germans settled. In the late 1800’s, they started celebrating the day with picnics, hunting, and eating groundhogs. Funny, they revered this lovable fuzzball by dining on it…
Later, the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club designated a space to preserve at least one groundhog for the traditional viewing.
But the Punxsutawney region does not hold exclusive claim to rights on the furry forecaster. After all, he’s not the best prognosticator. Up the road in Quarryville, PA, the members of the Slumbering groundhog Lodge pay homage to Octoraro Orphie. The members hail his track record far exceeds old Phil’s; claiming a 115 year perfect record. But the report never claimed what he was predicting, so it’s hard to verify his accuracy.
Apparently, hunting groundhogs is big business in Pennsylvania. The State Game Commission says about 36,000 hunters reported to kill around 200,000 groundhogs yearly. They claim it is more of a beef taste than venison, but hard to clean and a bit aromatic. But they advise to wait until the clover is in bloom to improve the taste, and take out the young ones first.
So sounds like if its brown, its down, shoot that little doe, if its got spots nobody gonna know.
So does Phil have a good enough track record? Well according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, comparing the national temperatures over the past, he has only hit the mark 40 percent of the time. For a meteorologist, I’d say that’s pretty darn good!!! That’s why I love this business; I can be right four out of ten times and still get the same paycheck.
So what do you think? Are we done with the snow and cold and the spring is around the corner? Or do we see another blast of Arctic cold and a foot of snow? I know what I know, and some of you probably don’t want to hear it, so I’ll keep it to myself. But this I know to be true … we are half way through winter and closer to spring every day.
Take hope, we are almost there; just 45 more days…
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