Saturday, February 2, 2013

Sustainable Saturday - Groundhog Day

I majored in cultural anthropology in college (about 40 zillion years ago) in a college in my native New York City.  One of the first things I learned was to study my own culture with the detachment a cultural anthropologist would use when out in the field.

That is why Groundhog Day gives me such enjoyment.  Americans love to read about the "strange customs" of other people. I wonder how many of them give the same thought to themselves. 

Once a year, they gather together in a small town in Pennsylvania, with much ceremony, to see if some poor groundhog by the name of Punxsutawney Phil will see his shadow or not.  TV networks in the States broadcast this live every February 2.

To my readers in Europe and Down Under, I am not making this up.  (there are several other regional groundhog weather forecasters, including Staten Island Chuck in New York City. But P. Phil is the most famous.)

This is what our local groundhog would have seen today, in my neighborhood in upstate New York.

This is NOT Punxutawney Phil.

No, instead, this is Punxutawney Phil.

This year he (and Chuck) did not see his shadow, meaning we will have an early spring.  Or will we? Last year, the groundhogs saw their shadows, meaning six more weeks of winter.  Of course, then, we had the warmest spring on record.

I must admit, I do not have many warm and fuzzy feelings when it comes to groundhogs.  They have eaten too much of my gardens over the years for me to ever do anything nice for them. 

It's true the sustainable lifestyle means paying close attention to the clues Nature gives us, but I think dragging one out so it can see its shadow on live TV is a bit much.

Do you believe groundhogs can predict when spring will come?


  1. It really is a funny holiday. I don't believe Phil has ever been correct. Thanks for this post. I found it humorous. :)

    1. Yes, I think using a groundhog on live TV to predict when spring will come is funny. Time for a National Geographic special on the celebration?

  2. I'm not sure about animals, but I know plants can tell about the weather to come. My roses are shooting already her in England. That usually means an early spring.

    1. That is good to hear - I hope that is predicting an early spring in the United States, too.

  3. Groundhog Day is a charming tradition, the likes of which doesn't exist here. The French have a related saying though - 'Noël au balcon, Pâques au tison', which means something like 'a warm Christmas means a cold Easter.' Thank god it's not reliable though because if it were kids here would be wrapped up in winter clothing this Easter whilst looking for their Easter eggs under a foot of snow!

  4. Thanks for an interesting perspective. I really hadn't thought about how this strange ritual would come across to those outside our country! Then again, I suppose people outside of the US also wonder about the pandemonium surrounding events like the Super Bowl and NASCAR, especially at Daytona.

  5. It never occurred to me how quirky this must look to those outside of the US.... I guess like camel racing, lol...


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