Happy Groundhog Day! (UPDATED BELOW)

  • groundhog day

    Not Phil. Rodent rival Wiarton Willie, climate soothsayer of Wiarton, Ontario

    Something tells me that with the weather lately, old Punxsutawney Phil might just see his shadow, dooming us to 6 weeks more winter.  Punxsutawney, of course, is the central Pennsylvania town known for holding the most prominent Groundhog Day celebration, complete with a tuxedoed band of residents known as the “Inner Circle” who care for Phil and interpret his prognostications.  Groundhogs, if you were interested, apparently live only 6 years in the wild, longer in captivity.  Phil may be the most famous, but many towns across North America have their own groundhogs-in-residence, most with catchy names like “Buckeye Chuck”, “Smith Lake Jake”, and my favorite, “General Beauregard Lee”. The Inner Circle claims that it has been able to extend the original Punxsutawney Phil’s lifespan by feeding him a magical punch which adds 7 years to his existence.  Sounds good to me.  Read more at groundhog.org.

  • Groundhog Day has origins in 18th-century Pennsylvania German culture.  The custom’s roots supposedly reach even further to Europe, where there was a tradition of making weather predictions based on animal behavior, that of the badger in particular.  A later development was the Groundhog (Grundsow) Lodge.  The original such group,  founded in Allentown, PA in 1933, decided to hold annual February 2 meetings “not only to hear the groundhog make its annual weather prognostication, but also to enjoy an evening of dialect fellowship aimed at instilling pride in their ethnic inheritance.”  Today around 18 such lodges operate, holding fersommlinge (gatherings) at which they eat Pennsylvania German food and promote the language and culture through various programs and activities.
  • Punxsutawney, despite being best known for its famous rodent resident, actually lies near a sizeable Amish settlement as well.  Clearfield County is home to a community numbering 9 church districts as of 2008, located near Punxsutawney and the borough of Troutville.  I have never visited Clearfield County, but maybe someone reading this can add more.
  • No matter what Phil predicts today, bad signs may be on the horizon for Heat Surge of Canton, Ohio, maker of the “miracle” Amish heater.  The product, you might recall, is an imported electric heater, encased in a wooden mantle, ostensibly made by Amish craftsmen.  Heat Surge has spent tens of millions over the past few years in massive advertising campaigns promoting their device.  But it looks like a group is challenging them on their heater’s claims.  Five individuals have decided to sue Heat Surge “over whether its fireplaces cut heating bills sharply and are made in the United States by Amish workers.”  Apparently, they’d like to make it a class action suit to include others with similar complaints.
  • Finally, photo of the day from Misty Anderson, who is soon moving to a La Plata, Missouri Amish farm she and her husband have just purchased.  Misty says that on a visit to view the farm, the owners took them out for a buggy ride, which gave her the chance to snap this photo.  Best wishes to Misty as she and her flock of 8 get settled in this spring.

amish buggy view

UPDATE: The verdict is in. Punxsutawney Phil has emerged from his burrow to…not see his shadow and thus predict an early spring.

The AP reports that since 1887, Phil has seen his shadow a total of 98 times, and not seen it only 16 (with some missing years in there).

They also note that Phil failed to make a football prediction for this weekend’s Super Bowl.  Below, a shot of Phil with two of his handlers (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic):

groundhog day punxsutawney phil

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