By: Grant Goetcheus
Last Friday, Feb. 2, the nation turned its attention to a small Pennsylvanian town for a weather report.
Groundhog Day came and went and with the animal seeing his shadow, the tradition signals six more weeks of winter ahead. The annual tradition is now in its 132 year, however the current Punxsutawney Phil is not the same one that was at the inaugural.
According to CNN, this tradition started in Europe as Candlemas Day, an early Christian holiday involving candles. Germans who settled in Pennsylvania in the 1700s brought the custom to America.
History.com says the first Groundhog Day occurred in 1887. It was the idea of the local newspaper Editor Clymer Freas. Freas pitched the idea to the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club and together they went to Gobblers Knob to find the groundhog. The rest was history when the groundhog saw his shadow and ran back into his hole.
Today, the tradition brings in tens of thousands of spectators to watch as the most famous groundhog delivers his uneducated opinion about the future. Punxsutawney is not only famous for this particular day, but also for the setting of the 1993 film Groundhog Day, starring Bill Murrey reliving the same day, Feb. 2, over and over again.
Pennsylvania’s Punxsutawney Phil is the most well-known, but more than a dozen states celebrate with their own groundhogs, such as Georgia’s General Beauregard Lee and Buckeye Chuck in Ohio.
With the latest weather pattern to hit Findlay, the groundhog seems to be more accurate than what has been on the news. However, studies done by The National Climatic Data Center determine that Punxsutawney Phil is only accurate about 40 percent of the time.
Groundhogs are not the only animals that society turns to in place of the local weatherman. For the last 30 years, residents of Vermillion, Oh., have turned to a very different creature for their annual weather forecast: the woolly bear caterpillar. According to tradition, if the bugs have more orange than black coloring in autumn, the upcoming winter will be mild. More than 100,000 people attend the town’s Woollybear Festival, held every fall since 1972.
Not everyone turns to tradition for answers. Junior Chris LeFlamme explains that he trusts the technology more.
“We have so much technology now that we are able to predict what the day will be like two weeks from now,” said LeFlamme. “I still like the tradition, but I don’t swear by it.”