Groundhog Day has come and gone by the time you are reading this article; but, what an odd “holiday” we celebrate to try and escape some nasty winter weather. We all hope that the groundhog brings us good luck when in fact; he really has nothing to do with what actually happens!
The first official Groundhog Day celebration took place on February 2, 1887, in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. It was the brainchild of local newspaper editor Clymer Freas, who sold a group of businessmen and groundhog hunters—known collectively as the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club—on the idea. The men trekked to a site called Gobbler’s Knob, where the inaugural groundhog became the bearer of bad news when he saw his shadow. Where did this tradition come from? After some searching, I found out that this tradition comes from our ancestors who emigrated from Germany. In certain parts of Europe, Christians believed that a sunny Candlemas meant another 40 days of cold and snow. Germans developed their own take on the legend, pronouncing the day sunny only if badgers and other animals glimpsed their own shadows. When German immigrants settled Pennsylvania in the 18th and 19th centuries, they brought the custom with them, choosing the native groundhog as the annual forecaster.
Here are five facts you probably didn’t know about Groundhog Day:
1. Punxsutawney Phil has seen his shadow 97 times, has not seen it 15 times, and nine years are unaccounted for.
2. The National Climatic Data Center reportedly stated that Phil’s predictions have been correct 39 percent of the time. This number is in conflict with Phil’s club, which states he’s been right 100 percent of the time.
3. According to the funny website groundhog.org, there’s a legend that during Prohibition, Phil threatened to impose 60 weeks of winter on the community if he wasn’t allowed a drink.
4. In the years following the release of Groundhog Day, a 1993 film starring Bill Murray, crowds numbering as high as 30,000 have visited Gobbler’s Knob, a tiny hill in Punxsutawney where the ceremony takes place.
5. Though groundhogs typically live only six to eight years, Groundhog Day lore suggests that Phil drinks a magic elixir every summer, which gives him seven more years of life. Two years ago this month I began my freelance writing career penning this weekly column for The Daily Advocate. I have enjoyed getting to know you and writing your family stories and/or announcements. Some weeks there are more things to include in the column than my allotted space and other weeks there are days of worry wondering what will I write about this week. If your club, group, organization has a printed or online newsletter I would love to be adding to your mailing list; this will help keep me informed and provide more readership about the ongoing events in our hometown. As always, you can call or email me with updates of announcements you would like included in the paper. Lastly, I would like to thank those of you who have taken the time to send me or give me a thank you or word of encouragement concerning this column; it makes my day to know that I have so many appreciative readers out there.
Vickie Rhodehamel is a volunteer citizen columnist, who serves Daily Advocate readers weekly with her Arcanum community column. She can be reached by calling 937-692-6188, by e-mail at email@example.com. Viewpoints expressed in these opinion pieces are the work of the author. The Daily Advocate does not endorse these viewpoints or the independent activities of the author.