Groundhog Day 2011: Bring on spring!

As winter throws its weight around unlike anything we have seen in years, even people who have never believed in Punxsutawney Phil’s powers of prognostication were thrilled when Groundhog Day 2011 resulted in our furry friend forecasting an early spring. Phil didn’t see his shadow (mostly because of the gray skies and icy rain), so six more weeks of winter aren’t in the cards this year. That was welcome news to most Americans, as everyone from the Dakotas down to Texas over to the Carolinas and up through New England are sick and tired of the cold.Snowfall across the US has reached record levels, so even if you don’t believe that a groundhog can predict the weather, surely you can appreciate that any sign of hope is welcome. On behalf of everyone who has had a flight canceled, spent hours digging out their cars or slipped on some ice, we salute you, Punxsutawney Phil. But if you’re wrong, we’ve got some groundhog stew recipes ready.

Photo by Flickr user alemaxale.

Groundhog Day: Phil and Spanish Joe say six more weeks of winter

According to folklore, if a groundhog sees it’s shadow on February 2nd, there are six more weeks of winter. Actually, there would be six more weeks of winter anyway, so that’s beside the point. Here is the forecast from Punxsutawny Phil in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. The famous groundhog presented the news this morning at 6 a.m. Phil did see his shadow.

The tradition of Groundhog Day has its roots in Celtic and Pagan traditions. February 1 is the date that marks the movement of weather away from winter towards spring. The pagan festival Imbolc , celebrated on the 1st is similar to the Catholic holiday Candlemas that dates back to medieval times. As Christianity edged out pagan beliefs, some cultural traditions persevered.

Nowadays, through the changes of time, we have been left with the tale of the groundhog and his shadow. Besides asking Punxsutawney Phil for the winter weather forecast, you can ask Spanish Joe. Although, Punxsutawney Phil has made Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania the place to be on February 2 because it has the largest Groundhog Day celebration ever, Spanish Joe has a following.

Spanish Joe is the only psychic groundhog in Ontario, Canada. It is said he can predict what the weather in Canada will be like all year long. He’s called Spanish Joe because he lives in the town of Spanish. At first, when I read his name, I thought he’d be wearing a sombrero, but no–Spanish Joe looks like any other groundhog. Although, as the story goes, Spanish Joe became Spanish Joe only after he was run over by a Greenpeace protest bus. It’s an odd story, but not much more unusual than any other groundhog story connected to Groundhog Day.

For a snippet of another odd, but also hysterical story, here’s a clip from the movie Groundhog Day. The movie takes place in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania on Groundhog Day over and over and over again, and was named by Stanley Fish of the New York Times as one of the 10 Best American Movies. Bill Murray is in top form in this one.

This is a scene well after Murray’s character finds out he’s living the same day over and over again. Part of the Groundhog Day Festival is shown. You have to love the polka music.