This past Friday was Groundhog’s Day. Were you one of the 30,000 people who traveled to Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, for Groundhog Day to see what Punxsutawney Phil had to offer? Punxsutawney Phil did not see his shadow this year and predicted an early spring. So what the heck is a Groundhog, anyway? How often is he right? And how did all this Groundhog business get started?
What is a Groundhog, and Where Does the Name Come From?
A groundhog is a rodent related to marmots (ground squirrels) and squirrels. They’re also known as woodchucks. Woodchuck comes from the Native American word “Wojak” from a legend about Wojak the Groundhog. Groundhogs are common animals in northern, eastern, and central United States and southern Canada. They are burrowing vegetarians and can be serious garden pests.
How “Groundhog Day” Came to Be
So how did the whole groundhog-predicting-the-weather get started? Groundhog Day is based on ancient European folklore. Superstition had it that if Candlemas Day (a religious observance on February 2, halfway between the Winter Solstice and the Spring Equinox) was fair, winter wasn’t over yet. Some people believed that badgers or magical bears forecast when spring would arrive. German settlers to Pennsylvania brought this folklore with them.
Other Rodent Weather Prognosticators
Punxsutawney Phil is not the only groundhog known for predicting the weather. There is also Buckeye Chuck. Chuck goes back to the 1970s, and in 1979, he was named the Official State Woodchuck of Ohio.
He’s not the only groundhog of note, however. There is also Woodstock Willie, Staten Island Chuck, and even a Beaver in Oregon named Filbert. And to top it all, the Milwaukee Zoo even relies on a flock of penguins!
Prognostication and Celebration
While Punxsutawney, PA, is the largest Groundhog Day celebration, it is not the only one. Other celebrations of note are in Bucks County, PA, Lancaster County, PA, the University of Dallas in Texas, and Nova Scotia.
How Accurate is Phil?
So, how accurate is Punxsutawney Phil? According to Stormfax.com, Phil is right only about 39% of the time…” On the other hand, Phil predicted six more weeks of winter last year. Maybe that explains the frost we had AFTER May 1st?
Let’s Plan Your Garden Now
Regardless of whether Punxsutawney Phil is right or wrong this year, this is a perfect time to think about and plan your spring and summer garden. You’ll find all the tools, plants, and advice you need at the Great Big Greenhouse and Nursery to make your 2024 garden great.