A rather strange event takes place in the town of Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, every February 2. A large crowd gathers to find out whether or not winter will last another six weeks. This forecast is carried out not by a human weather forecaster, but by a rodent: a groundhog named Punxsutawney Phil.
According to legend, if Phil emerges from his burrow and sees his shadow due to clear weather, winter will last six more weeks. If, instead, he cannot see his shadow due to cloud cover, then spring will come early.
Phil has an ‘inner circle’ of people who take care of him and plan for this solemn event. On February 2, at dawn, they summon him from his tree stump and inquire whether he has seen his shadow. Phil speaks to them in “Groundhogese,” and they report what he says to the crowd. This year, they reported that Phil saw his shadow and, therefore, winter will last six more weeks.
According to the inner circle, the same groundhog has made all the forecasts since the event was first held in 1886 (therefore Phil is not only a seer, but a centenarian, too!). The origin of the celebration dates even further back. It most likely originated in the Christian tradition of Candlemas and was brought over from Europe by Dutch and German immigrants.
Obviously, there is no scientific basis for Phil’s predictions. Groundhog Day is a light-hearted event that also features music, banquets and balls. It’s a day, according to the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club, “to take everything a little less seriously, and break up the winter monotony... at least for a little while!”
1) What’s your favourite annual holiday or celebration? Describe why you like it and how you celebrate it.
2) Describe an unusual festival, tradition or celebration you have attended.
(Image: Wikimedia Commons)