Saturday, February 02, 2008

Phil Says Six More Weeks of Winter

Okay, folks – it’s that time again: February 2nd, better known as Groundhog Day. One of the quirkier traditions in our quirky old country, Groundhog Day is the mid-winter holiday when, according to legends promulgated by the kind folks in Punxsutawney PA, a small rodent named Phil wakes up from his winter sleep to forecast the coming of spring.

Probably rooted in the German folk traditions of Candlemas, Groundhog Day is much more secular (and silly!). This morning, February 2nd, “Punxsutawney Phil”, the famous groundhog, ascended from his winter hibernation and saw his shadow. The official interpretation of all this is somewhat counter-intuitive: Since Phil-the-Groundhog saw his shadow, winter will continue for six more weeks; but if he'd emerged and not seen his shadow, then spring would have been just around the corner.

(Exactly how we know whether or not Phil has seen his shadow is just one of the many intriguing questions surrounding this midwinter event -- he has a dedicated crew of caretakers and interpreters who look after him and share his wisdom with the world.)

This morning at sunrise, Punxsutawney Phil pointed his handlers toward the proper prognosticatory scroll, which was then read out to the assembled throng:

"As I look around me, a bright sky I see, and a shadow beside me.
Six more weeks of winter it will be!"

The original and official Groundhog Day celebration takes place every year in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania (which is about 90 minutes northeast of Pittsburgh). Though people come to Punxsutawny from all over the world, many more people prefer to stay indoors (where it’s warm) and celebrate by watching the wonderful Bill Murray movie Groundhog Day, which was set in Punxsutawney but filmed in Woodstock Illinois, (which is about an hour northwest of Chicago…).

Woodstock (home of the Dick Tracy museum) is a worthwhile detour north from our US-20 road trip route across Illinois.

Click here to learn Punxsutawney Phil’s prediction for 2008 weather, and for anything else to do with Groundhog Day.


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8:13 AM  

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