Today is Groundhog Day, so happy day to all you groundhogs out there.
Legend has it that if a groundhog comes out of his hole on this day and see’s his shadow, there will be six more weeks of winter. In all the years I’ve heard mention of this legend, I’ve never heard what’s supposed to happen if he doesn’t see his shadow. Thinking maybe I’ve overlooked something, I googled “Groundhog Day” and am now looking at the official Groundhog Day site. (Yes, it surprises me that there is an “official” site for the holiday.) The site is run by the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club.
In my mind, I always figured that if the groundhog saw his shadow, winter would be shorter, ending in just six weeks. If he didn’t see his shadow, winter would be as long as always, stretching sometimes into April. (This is the Minnesota perspective on winter. Heck, it’s not uncommon for us to have snow in May.) Being as how the spring equinox is on either March 20 or 21 each year, hence about six weeks after Groundhog Day, this holiday always felt rigged to me. Whether the groundhog saw his shadow or not, we’d still have at least six weeks left of winter.
Turns out, I’ve had it all wrong. The deal is that if Punxsutawney Phil (“the only true weather forecasting groundhog“) sees his shadow, he’ll head back into his hole and winter will last for six more weeks, but if he doesn’t see his shadow, he’ll hang around outside because spring is going to be early.
Got it. But now I’m wondering something else. Punxsutawney Phil is located in Pennsylvania and his shadow prediction likely works well with that state’s climate, but what about Minnesota? How would the Groundhog Day prediction of a Minnesota groundhog (or Golden Gopher, if you prefer) hold up?
[Addendum: In case you haven’t heard, Phil saw his shadow today.]