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Groundhog Day!

Published: 01/02/2021 By The Abode Team

Every year, on the morning of February the 2nd, the people of Punxsutawney in Pennsylvania (USA) gather in large numbers to find out if spring is due to arrive sooner or if winter will last a little longer. The forecast is revealed by a truly unusual and particular meteorologist: a marmot (or groundhog) named Phil who is brought out of his burrow to predict if winter will end soon or if it will last for a few more weeks. The marmot who made the prediction on February last year is a 55cm long specimen weighing 9 kilos.

Marmot Day or Groundhog Day as you probably know it, is the day in the United States and Canada on which the awakening of this rodent is celebrated: the behaviour of the marmot indicates whether there will be an early or late spring.

If the marmot emerges from his burrow and can’t see his shadow because the weather is cloudy, then the winter will end soon. If on the other hand it’s a sunny day and he can’t see his shadow, he gets scared and runs back into his burrow indicating that winter will last for another six weeks. In fact, during the winter in North American, days of clear and sunny skies are associated with very low temperatures.

This tradition officially began in Punxsutawney on February the 2nd 1886, but was introduced in the early nineteenth century by Germanic-speaking populations who emigrated to Pennsylvania. These people  based many of their traditions on meteorognostics; a system of forecasting the weather based on the observation of natural signs and events. Traditionally in Europe the behaviour of badgers or bears was observed, while in Pennsylvania it was decided to follow the hibernation trend of marmots, animals very common in that territory.

It didn't take long for Groundhog Day, the 1993 comedy starring Bill Murray and Andie Macdowell, to gain cult classic status. It even won a British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) film award for Best Original Screenplay. Murray, who plays a contemptuous television weather reporter who repeats the same day over and over, apparently disliked the film.