Western Nebraska Observer - Observations all along the line - Kimball & the Southern Panhandle First

Shadow or not, spring is coming, just don't bet on it


Every February 2nd, for longer than anyone can remember, has been a day of foretelling the weather.

Although history can be clouded (pun intended), it’s believed that Groundhog Day may have originated in the Celtic lands of Europe where it was first known as the pagan holiday of Imbolic.

As the traditions of Imbolic include not only foretelling of the coming seasons, just as Groundhog day, but also the halfway point between winter solstice and spring equinox. Originally it was a pagan tradition to light candles in reverence of the coming of spring, and of the light.

For Christians, Candlemas is known as the purification of the Mary, the presentation of Jesus in the temple and is celebrated with a candle procession. Although the Feast of the Presentation is one of the oldest celebrations in the church, it wasn’t until approximately 1372 that Imbolic was renamed and taken on by Christians as Candlemas Day.

Pagan, Catholic and Christians all celebrated and adapted their beliefs of February 2 over the centuries, however, the foretelling of spring was a consistent belief of the day. As the origins of the holiday originated in Europe, it was the hedgehog that was the source of weather forecasting. When Europeans immigrated to America around the 1700’s, they found no hedgehogs and, therefore, the groundhog was given the opportunity to take the crown of the king of weather divination.

In 1886, the Punxsutawney Sprit newspaper was credited for printing the first American observance of a groundhog seeing his shadow. A year later, Groundhog Day was officially celebrated on Gobbler’s Knob in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania.

Tradition dictates that if the groundhog comes out and does not see his shadow, spring will come early; seeing his shadow forces him back into his hole, predicting six more weeks of winter. Over the past 130 years, the groundhog has seen his shadow 102 times, foretelling more winter to come. However, of those 130 times, his ability to correctly forecast the weather was far below average, achieving only a 39 percent accuracy.

As humans, we love our furry creatures, and although the little guy looks alot like a large mouse, I’m also quite taken with his cuteness, but with those odds I certainly wouldn’t take the little guy to Vegas with me.


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