Groundhog Day

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Groundhog Day

Punxsutawney Phil carries a heavy load on his little shoulders. According to folklore, if the groundhog pops out of his burrow and sees his shadow today, there will be six more weeks of winter. If there’s no shadow, it means an early spring.

Phil has become the unofficial groundhog of Groundhog Day. He’s near the small town of Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. His appearance is part of a day-long festival that’s been celebrated since 1887. Many other towns hold similar fetes.

There actually is a bit of truth to the legends. Crisp, sunny days often follow cold fronts — part of a pattern of continuing cold weather. Cloudy skies can be produced by warmer air pushing up from the south — perhaps the start of more spring-like patterns.

Groundhog Day is one of several commemorations of a cross-quarter day. Such days occur about half way between a solstice and an equinox. In many cultures, a cross-quarter day represented the beginning of a new season, not its middle.

In the British Isles, there were several celebrations of the February cross-quarter day. In Ireland, it began as Imbolg, which honored the goddess Brigid. Later, Christians celebrated it as Saint Brigid’s Day, honoring Ireland’s patron saint. And in other regions, it was Candlemas. People had their candles blessed by a priest, then used them to light up the rest of the year.

So keep an eye on your own skies to see if spring is nigh — or winter will maintain its icy grip.

Script by Damond Benningfield

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