“Okay, campers, rise and shine. Don’t forget your booties because it’s cooooold out there today.”
If you recognize this quote, you are a fan of good movies, and you also know it’s Groundhog’s Day! But, did you know, it’s also half-way between the winter solstice and the spring equinox? This is how the idea of an early February celebration got started. The pagan celebration of Imbolc became the Christian celebration Candlemas, and the Germans were the ones who added small woodland creatures seeing their shadow to the whole “40 more days of cold” part. Then the Germans brought the tradition to Eastern Pennsylvania with them. And, that’s (almost) how we got where we are today.
Picture it, Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, February 2, 1887! A local newspaper editor, obviously a most clever gent, convinced a group of local hunters (the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club) to pull off a publicity stunt! The formality of today’s celebration, the top hats and all, wasn’t a part of the festivities that first year on Gobbler’s Knob, but it still worked to bring tourists and their dollars into an otherwise quiet little town.
The 1993 movie quoted at the top of this blog is, of course, Groundhog Day, which bears repeated viewings more than once a year.
Now, for those who’ve always wondered how accurate a bucktoothed hairy marmot can be, you are correct in being skeptical. According to the National Climatic Data Center, poor Phil is only right about 50% of the time. Perhaps his handlers, the Inner Circle of the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club, need to bone up on their “Groundhogese” (the language in which they speak to Phil).
One thing to be sure of, a good publicity stunt can last a lot longer than six-weeks! Especially if not kept underground!