This morning as I turned on the news to get the snow forecast I was presented with a rodent on a log and hundreds of onlookers waiting for answers. Would it be an early spring this year? The groundhog Punxsutawney Phill says yes, on the basis that he did not see his own shadow. The Pennsylvanian groundhog also made a few statements regarding global warming, not sure why, messages about climate change seem to fall flat. Given we don’t listen to scientists proclaiming Earth’s destruction I doubt we will listen to a garden variety groundhog…although voting trends in Australia seem to suggest otherwise.
Moving on, the tradition dates back to the fifth century, the European Celts believed that animals had certain supernatural powers on special days that were half-way between the Winter Solstice and Spring Equinox (Wikipedia.com). Canada has a few well known groundhogs of its own, most noted is Wiarton Willy of Wiarton, Ontario. The tradition in Wiarton is not as old, commencing in 1956 after a journalist from the Toronto Star set out for Wiarton on a tip of a Groundhog Day Festival. All he found were some locals at the bar who had decided GHD was as good excuse as any to come together for a beer. Not wanting to send the journo home empty handed one of the townsfolk stuck is wife’s fir hat in the ground, declared a prognostication and it made the front page. The following year many flocked to Wiarton to join in the festivities which continue today. Wiarton Willy is now a real albino groundhog and along with Phill he predicts an early spring.
So, what of Wiarton Willy’s success rate – the locals boast a 90 – 95% success rate, the statistical data pegs Willy at 37.5%. I won’t be sending my thermals home too soon.