Punxsutawney Phil & the Gobbler's Knob

When I read the blog title, I think it sounds like a lost book in the Harry Potter series -- LOL! -- you never know... :)

I'm in Punxsutawney for the 117th weather prognostication from the world's most famous groundhog, Phil. Promoters are expecting a large crowd (possible up to 40,000) to be at the ceremony, so I'm going to get there by 5:00am to see if I can get a good spot for the event at 7:20am. What a great tradition!

For those of you who can't make it here, you're in luck, as you can watch the whole shebang go down **live** here. And for those who think the who thing is a little silly, let me tell you more about the tradition that dates back before the Roman empire. 

(Adapted from "Groundhog Day: 1886 to 1992" by Bill Anderson)

Groundhog Day, February 2nd, is a popular tradition in the United States. It is also a legend that traverses centuries, its origins clouded in the mists of time with ethnic cultures and animals awakening on specific dates. Myths such as this tie our present to the distant past when nature did, indeed, influence our lives. It is the day that the Groundhog comes out of his hole after a long winter sleep to look for his shadow.

If he sees it, he regards it as an omen of six more weeks of bad weather and returns to his hole.

If the day is cloudy and, hence, shadowless, he takes it as a sign of spring and stays above ground.

The groundhog tradition stems from similar beliefs associated with Candlemas Day and the days of early Christians in Europe, and for centuries the custom was to have the clergy bless candles and distribute them to the people. Even then, it marked a milestone in the winter and the weather that day was important.

The Roman legions, during the conquest of the northern country, supposedly brought this tradition to the Teutons, or Germans, who picked it up and concluded that if the sun made an appearance on Candlemas Day, an animal, the hedgehog, would cast a shadow, thus predicting six more weeks of bad weather, which they interpolated as the length of the "Second Winter."

Pennsylvania's earliest settlers were Germans and they found groundhogs to in profusion in many parts of the state. They determined that the groundhog, resembling the European hedgehog, was a most intelligent and sensible animal and therefore decided that if the sun did appear on February 2nd, so wise an animal as the groundhog would see its shadow and hurry back into its underground home for another six weeks of winter.

This passage may be the one most closely represented by the first Punxsutawney Groundhog Day observances because there were references to the length of shadows in early Groundhog Day predictions.

The ancient Candlemas legend and similar belief continue to be recognized annually on February 2nd due to the efforts of the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club.

The Punxsutawney Spirit newspaper is credited with printing the news of the first observance in 1886 (one year before the first legendary trek to Gobbler's Knob):

"Today is groundhog day, and up to the time of going to press the beast has not seen his shadow."

To me, it's remarkable that this fun tradition survived and that it puts this town on the world's map -- everyone seems to know who Punxsutawney Phil is, and that he is the highest ranking groundhog in the New World.

By the way, since 1887, the groundhog has seen his shadow 100 times, and not seen it 16 times to predict an early spring. Also, www.groundhog.org has a ton of great info about Groundhog Day -- check them out. And let's hope that Phil's shadow stays away and that this winter will be done shortly. 

Groundhog Day cheers Here-A-Year-ers!!

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