Today on a hillside in Gobblers Knob, Pennsylvania, a roly-poly rodent called Punxsutawney Phil emerged from his burrow in front of TV cameras and ecstatic crowds and was called upon to predict the weather. Phil emerged and saw his shadow, which according to legend, means that winter is here to stay for six more weeks.
Weird eh? Or apparently not so weird! For using animals to predict the weather is not a new ideology and may in fact date back to the early days of Christianity in Europe when clear skies on Candlemas – February 2nd – was said to signal a prolonged stay of cold weather. In Germany, this tradition transformed into a myth where-by if the sun shone on Candlemas, the hedgehog would cast a shadow, and snow would fall all the way into May. When German immigrants settled in Pennsylvania, they reassigned the tradition to native fauna; hence Groundhog Day was born.
The accuracy of Phil’s prognostications is, of course, subject to debate. His supporters argue that he is uncannily accurate, where-as the statistics do not give weight to this claim. In the one-hundred and twenty-six years since the tradition began Phil the Groundhog has been correct only thirty-nine percent of the time. In real terms, we’d be better off flipping a coin. But hey, a coin wouldn’t be nearly so cute!!