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As an outbreak of foolishness, Groundhog Day is well-timed

Hey, it’s Groundhog Day today!

Hey, it’s Groundhog Day today!


Here’s the deal. If the groundhog sticks his nose out of his burrow this morning and sees his shadow, for some reason, that means six more weeks of winter, and he hurries back into his burrow and tweets all his woodland buddies: “It’s too freaking cold out there. High Pressure ridge. Stay inside. Avoid large raptors. Brrr. @Rodent.”


If, on the other hand, there’s no shadow, it’s safe to come out since spring is just around the corner. Righhht.


The groundhog first dabbled in meteorology in 1887 in Pennsylvania with Punxsutawney Phil and his various descendents (groundhogs don’t live very long), but not to be outdone, Canada has its own groundhog, Wiarton Willie, who’s been doing the same trick for 55 years. And the Gaspé even has its own groundhog, fred la marmotte, so the weather is badly predicted in both official languages.


It doesn’t matter that the fat little critter can’t predict the weather or anything else for that matter (uh, he’s a rodent), because it’s a tradition. And you don’t mess with tradition, no matter how dopey. It has its roots in Candlemas, which is the midpoint between the winter solstice and the spring equinox, as good a time as any for an outbreak of foolishness.


And it doesn’t get any dopier than Groundhog Day. Same time every year, Feb. 2, just when winter starts to drag a little (except here on the West Coast, when it’s time for the snowdrops and crocuses to start peeking their heads above the ground, bwa-hah-ha), the media on both sides of the border lose their minds for a day and run front page photos of Fat Phil and Wide Willie, as they “predict” the weather.


It’s probably the groundhog equivalent of winning the lottery: Free snacks, although you might wish for a time before the paparazzi, when life was simple — just a warm hole in the ground, a tasty stolen turnip, snuggling up to your favourite ground, uh, sow.


Being a rodent and a practical mammal, you’re probably wondering what the fuss is all about. I mean, what is it with the animal prediction racket? Look at Paul the Octopus. He’s got his own memorial in Germany for accurately predicting soccer’s World Cup results.


Which is more than you can say about the groundhog. The shocking truth is that since 1988, Phil has been “wrong”13 times and “right” only 10. With a record like that, he could be a broker.

 
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