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Groundhog Day: More Winter or Is Spring Around the Corner?

official pardon
by lisby1

Article by Terry Kaufman

Groundhog Day, a popular tradition in Canada and the United States, is celebrated every year on February 2nd. It had its origins in the observance of Candlemas Day, in the early days of Christianity. The clergy would bless candles and make them available to the people, marking a milestone in the winter. The Teutons, or Germans, believing that if the sun came out on Candlemas Day, a hedgehog would come out of hibernation and cast a shadow, thereby predicting six more weeks of winter. The animal would then return to its burrow. If there was no shadow, spring would soon be there and the hedgehog would remain above ground.

Groundhog Day is now celebrated in a lighthearted manner. Many cities and towns across the United States and Canada hold festivities with their own “celebrity” groundhogs., the most well-known of which is Punxsutawney Phil of Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania.

Punxsutawney celebrated its first Groundhog Day in the 1800s due to the efforts of newspaper editor Clymer H. Freas and American Congressman and newspaper publisher W. Smith; the first official observance at Gobbler’s Knob (part of the town of Punxsutawney) was on February 2, 1887.

Legend has it that Punxsutawney Phil was named after King Phillip; Phil’s original name was Br’er Groundhog.

Groundhog Day is celebrated with a touch of whimsey. It was not until 1966 that the festivities at Gobbler’s Knob were open to the public. Now, in the early 21st century, as many as 30,000 people come to Punxsutawney each year to join in the merriment. Not only have the festivities been made public, but the occasion of Phil emerging from his burrow is broadcast on national television. Punxsutawney Phil has even visited President Ronald Reagan at the White House in 1986. He was a guest on the Today show in 1960 and also on the Oprah Winfrey television show in 1995. Phil was shown live on the JumboTron in New York City’s Time Square in 2001.

DID YOU KNOW?

Other names for the groundhog are woodchuck, marmot, or whistlepig.

An average groundhog is 20 inches long and weighs anywhere from 4 to 15 pounds.

Groundhogs are herbivores living on greens, fruits, and vegetables. They are not very fond of water but manage to keep hydrated by eating dew-laden leaves. They also enjoy cultivated flowers and the bark and roots of small trees.

When alarmed, groundhogs make a whistling sound. Groundhogs also use the whistle as part of the courting ritual.

Groundhogs are extremely clean and are not bothered by insects or most germs.

To prepare for hibernation, groundhogs lay on a heavy layer of fat in late summer or early fall. By February, they have used up half of their body weight while hibernating.

SOME CELEBRITY GROUNDHOGS IN CANADA AND THE UNITED STATES:

Balzac Billy (Alberta, Canada)Birmingham Bill (Birmingham, Alabama)Brandon Bob (Manitoba, Canada)Buckeye Chuck (Marion, Ohio)Dunkirk Dave (Western New York)French Creek Freddie (West Virginia State Wildlife Center, Upshur County, W. Virginia)Gary the Groundhog (Kleinburg, Ontario, Canada)General Beauregard Lee (Yellow River Game Ranch, Lilburn, Georgia)Holtsville Hal (Long Island, New York)Jimmy the Groundhog (Sun Prairie, Wisconsin)Malverne Mel and Malverne Melissa (Malverne, New York)Manitoba Merv (Oak Hammock Marsh, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada)Octoraro Orphie (Quarryville, Pennsylvania)Pardon Me Pete (Tampa, Florida)Pothole Pete (New York, New York)Punxsutawney Phil (Gobbler’s Knob, Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania)Shubenacadie Sam (Shubenacadie Wildlife Park, Halifax, Canada)Sir Walter Wally (North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, Raleigh, North Carolina)Smith Lake Jake (Birmingham Zoo, Birmingham, Alabama)Spanish Joe (Spanish, Ontario, Canada)Staten Island Chuck (Staten Island Zoo, Staten Island, New York)Wiarton Willie – an albino groundhog (Wiarton, Ontario, Canada)

About the Author

See more on holidays at Niftykitchen.com Food and Cooking Tips. Terry Kaufman also writes for Niftyhomebar.com and Niftygarden.com©2008 Terry Kaufman. No reprints without permission.

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