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Rooting for Wiarton Willie and an Early Spring

It was such a beautiful day in Ridge that I went for a long walk in the neighbourhood. The sun followed me and the warmth did my body good. Everywhere I looked spring was trying to poke through making me hope for spring to come so that I could get my Vitamin D in its purest form.

February 2nd was Groundhog Day and when I wrote the following article for work I didn’t think much of it other than providing history about why there was a Groundhog Day. Today on my walk I thought about the different groundhogs and that all but one had predicted that winter would last six more weeks.

This year more than any other we need the rebirth that comes with spring’s warmth. I reflected on the past two years and how hard they have been for everyone. COVID has crippled the world with a virus that has seen to this day almost 400 million infected and over 5 million deaths.

Even though we see divisions between those that are for and against vaccines, wearing or not wearing masks, gathering and not gathering, when I walked today, every single person I came across said hello. It is amazing how prior to the pandemic, I maybe had one person say hi, but now everyone does.

It goes to prove that humanity needs each other. We need to get back to life so we can enjoy what it has to offer. This is why I’m rooting for the underdog Wiarton Willie. Please be right and bring on spring in all its glory, so we can get re-connected with the world around us.

Groundhog Day features a rodent predicting our weather….do they have what it takes to be a meteorologist? I know this is a couple of days late but we NEED TO KNOW is it spring or winter?

Groundhog Day every February 2nd asks one question… “Will he see his shadow”? Ok maybe a more important question, “Will there be six more weeks of winter?” This question has been asked since 1887 when Groundhog Day was celebrated the first time in Gobbler’s Knob in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania.

According to tradition, if a groundhog comes out of its hole on this day and sees his shadow, it gets scared and runs back into its home, predicting six more weeks of winter weather. The opposite is if there is no shadow then it means an early spring.

Groundhog Day has roots in ancient Christian tradition of Candlemas as well. In Germany the clergy would bless and distribute candles needed for winter. The candles would represent how long and cold the winter would be. They then expanded this concept by selecting an animal – the hedgehog – in predicting the weather. Once German settlers came to Pennsylvania, they continued the tradition, although switched to groundhogs, which there are many.

Groundhogs are also called woodchucks and whose scientific name is Marmota Monax. They weigh between 12 – 15 pounds and live six to eight years. They eat fruits and vegetables, whistle when they are frightened (sometimes called whistle pigs) and can climb trees and swim.

Like bears they go into hibernation in late fall, where their body temperature drops significantly, their heartbeats slow from 80 to five beats per minute. They can lose up to 30 percent of their body fat. In February, male groundhogs emerge from their homes to look for a mate (not predict the weather) before going underground again. They come out of hibernation in March.

In 1887, Punxsutawney Groundhog Club declared that “Phil” was the name of their groundhog. He and the line of groundhogs that followed are America’s most famous groundhogs. Even though there are many states that have their own groundhog predicting the weather.

The results are in and Phil saw his shadow, predicting six more weeks of winter.

In Canada we have several provinces that also partake in this tradition and here are the results of our groundhogs:

Nova Scotia’s Shubenacadie Sam was the first in Canada to make the prediction and this year Sam saw her shadow therefore six more weeks of winter

Quebec’s Fred la Marmotte, woke up and predicted six more weeks of winter

Ontario’s Wiarton Willie is optimistic and crawled out of his den to declare an early spring

Manitoba Merv, a puppet in Manitoba made his predication by siding with most of his furry friends. Six more weeks of winter

Further west in BC, Van Isle Violet saw her shadow, let out a scream and retreated to her den. She saw the snow storm hitting us and predicted it will be here another six weeks

Alberta’s Balzac Billy crawled out of his den late, looked around and like the others quickly retreated to hibernate for six more week

Statics show Punxsutawney Phil has been accurate 39% of the time and Shubenacadie Sam has a 45% accuracy rate. Looks like only Wiarton Willie has predicted an early spring but with an accuracy rate of 25 %, what are the odds we get an early spring?

Spring poking through....


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