Ever wonder why on earth we look to a groundhog to tell us what the weather is going to be? And why February 2? As with all legends, there's always a truth that starts it all. And here's the truth behind this Groundhogs Day legend:
Here's a little history I found in the Farmer's Almanac, a most trusted source for Farmers since 1792. That's a long time!
It turns out February 2 marks the midpoint between the winter solstice and spring equinox, also known as "Candlemas." Around this time, farmers needed to determine when to plant their crops, so they tried to forecast whether there would be an early spring or a lingering winter.
Sunshine on Candlemas was said to indicate the return of winter. It was not a good omen if the day itself was bright and sunny, for that was said to bring snow and frost for six more weeks, or until the hiring of the laborers on Lady Day.
If the day was cloudy and dark, warmth and rain would come soon to thaw out the fields, which would then be ready for planting.
Today, our celebrated Groundhog Day is a remote survivor of that belief. According to the legend, if a groundhog sees its shadow on this day, there will be six more weeks of winter. If it doesn't, then spring is right around the corner.
For centuries, farmers in France and England looked to the bear. In Germany, they kept their eye on the badger.
In the 1800s, German immigrants to Pennsylvania brought the tradition with them. Finding no Badgers there, they adopted the groundhog to fit the lore. Pennsylvania's Punxsutawney Phil has announced spring's arrival since 1887.
Other groundhogs also have carried on the tradition, including Ontario's Wiarton Willie.
Although we recognize that animal behavior isn't the only way to judge planting dates, the tradition continues, often with a wink and a smile.
For more legends and the truth behind them, check out Nikki Landry and the Swamp Legend Series. at Mirror World Publishing. or my website.