Punxsutawney Phil Calls Shots Today

Why do we really celebrate Groundhog Day? It's the midpoint of winter, which means no matter what that land-beaver does today, the coldest season's days are numbered.

Even though you may think Groundhog Day is corny, you have to admit that every Feb. 2 you are curious if Pennsylvania's Punxsutawney Phil has seen his shadow. If so, we're due for six more weeks of winter. If not, spring will arrive early.

And so, this morning at 7:30 a.m., the little critter scurried out of his hole and saw his shadow.

But with so little cold and so little this season, is the point of Groundhog Day moot this year?

To get you into the spirit, we've compiled some facts about Groundhog Day.

1. The days are getting longer no matter what Phil predicts. Today's sunrise is at 7:02 a.m. and the sun will set at 5:07 p.m. That's 10 hours and 5 minutes of daylight. In one month's time, the sun will rise at 6:23 a.m. and set at 5:43 p.m., allotting us 11 hours and 20 minutes of daylight.

2. The origins of Groundhog Day, according to groundhog.org (can you believe it??) supposedly started with the ancient Romans, who brought the notion with them in their conquest of Scotland.

If “Candlemas Day,” Feb. 2, the midpoint of winter, halfway between the shortest day of the year and the spring equinox. In ancient times, people celebrated the increased strength of the sun, heralding the coming of spring.

Later, the festival of Candlemas commemorated the ritual purification of Mary, 40 days after the birth of Jesus, according to Project Britain.

An old English song predicted:

If Candlemas be fair and bright

Come, Winter, have another flight;

If Candlemas brings clouds and rain,

Go Winter, and not come again.

Germans moving into Pennsylvania found groundhogs in abundance. Figuring that  the groundhog was an intelligent animal, and would understand the whole Candlemas thing, they began the tradition of using the groundhog to forecast the rest of the winter.

3. According to the Farmers' Almanac, the groundhog is also known as the woodchuck. It is a type of marmot, a large rodent related to a squirrel.

4. The average groundhog moves approximately 710 pounds of dirt when digging its burrow. Burrows can be up to 46 feet long and up to 5 feet underground.

5. According to Stormfax, the groundhog is right in its Groundhog Day predictions only 39 percent of the time!


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