Monday, February 2, 2009

Groundhog Day

Well today is Groundhog Day and that means that the groundhog prognosticators will be woken from their winter slumber so that they can tell everyone when spring will arrive.

An early spring or six more weeks of winter. Hmm... an early spring would be nice, especially after the winter that most of us have just come through, but even if the sleepy little guys sees his shadow, six more weeks isn't that long. After all, that would only take us to March 16, which is only a few days before the official start to spring on March 20. So why the big deal over whether or not the little guy sees his shadow or not?

Groundhog Day always seemed like a waste of time to me. Getting up out of a nice warm bed before dawn on a cold winter's morning to see if a groundhog sees it's shadow. Yet people all over North America and parts of Europe have done this for well over 150 years. Come on, people, it's not like the groundhog actually speaks and says I saw or didn't see my shadow! It is the human "handler" who interprets whether or not a shadow has been seen.

Many Europeans used the hedgehog as their forecaster, but due to a shortage of hedgehogs in North America, settlers switched the custom to watching woodchucks or groundhogs. The first reports of this custom in North America date back to the 1840's.There are also some European countries that watch certain days in June or July for weather predictions. If it rains on a certain day, then it will be a rainy season ahead.

Here are just a few of the groundhog prognosticators across North America:
- Punxsutawney Phil found in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, USA
- Jimmy the Groundhog of Sun Prairie, Wisconsin, USA
- Wiarton Willie found in Wiarton, Ontario, Canada
- Staten Island Chuck found in New York City, New York, USA
- General Beauregard Lee, PhD found in Atlanta, Georgia, USA
- Dunkirk Dave in Dunkirk, New York, USA
- Malverne Mel and Malverne Melissa found in Malverne, New York, USA
- Brandon Bob of Brandon, Manitoba, Canada - Balzac Billy of Balzac, Alberta, Canada
- Shubenacadie Sam of Shubenacadie, Nova Scotia, Canada
- Gary the Groundhog of Kleinburg, Ontario, Canada
- Spanish Joe of Spanish, Ontario, Canada
- Sir Walter Wally of Raleigh, North Carolina, USA
- Pardon Me Pete of Tampa, Florida, USA
- Octoraro Orphie of Quarryville, Pennsylvania, USA
- Holtsville Hal of Holtsville, New York, USA
- Buckeye Chuck of Marion, Ohio, USA

The official forecaster here in Manitoba is known as Manitoba Merv. His partner is named Maria. They are residents of Oak Hammock Marsh, but Merv isn't your average groundhog. Several years ago, the staff at Oak Hammock, decided that they would use puppets to embrace the spirit of the day, rather than wake the real animals. Groundhogs normally sleep through late March, and it was agreed that waking them for that one day was not really that good for the well being of the animals. Bravo, Oak Hammock Marsh!!

I know of a couple of people who were actually born on Groundhog Day - one a very close family member and the other is a longtime friend of the family. They have always been razed about seeing their shadow on their birthday! We've even threatened to blindfold them or keep them indoors some years!!

So, regardless of whether any of the Groundhogs sees their shadow today, I thought I'd share a little Groundhog Day Humour:

Q: Why was the groundhog depressed about his den?
A: He was having a bad lair day!

Q: What would you get if you crossed February 2 with a Christmas drink?
A: Ground Nog Day!

Why bother with Groundhog Day?
- It's already on the calendar.
- with all the wannabe prognosticating rodents out there, at least one of them has got to be right!
- often more accurate than the regular weather forecasts and networks!
- As the old radio show used to say: "The Shadow Knows"!
- For those of us who are single, it is less depressing than Valentine's Day!


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