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Un Die Grundsau Saagt...

…it’s six more weeks of winter.

According to Punxsutawney Phil, we need to keep those snow shovels, snow blowers, and winter clothes handy for a few more weeks. The cold of winter will remain. And the air will continue to smell of burning wood from fireplaces as residents keep themselves warm.

On Feb. 2, Groundhog Day, Phil emerged from his den to let us all know whether spring is near or if there will be more winter weather on the way. Tradition says that if he sees his shadow, there will be another six weeks of winter; if he doesn’t see his shadow, a wet and warm spring is soon to come.

Groundhog Day has its origins in the ancient past, when early Europeans looked for ways to predict the weather. During the winter, people looked for signs seeking the arrival of better weather, and they trusted the appearance of certain animals to indicate these natural events.

The groundhog tradition stems from similar beliefs of early Christians and Candlemas Day, an important day in the European calendar which marked the approaching end to winter. It came at the mid-point between the Winter Solstice and the Spring Equinox…Feb. 2. If the day was bright and sunny, they believed, an animal would cast a shadow, thus predicting six more weeks of winter. If it was cloudy and wet, spring was just around the corner. 

Early Germans long relied on the hedgehog and his shadow to make an appearance to signal the end of winter. When German settlers arrived in Pennsylvania in the 1700s, only to find no hedgehogs, they began to watch the groundhogs. They determined that the groundhog most resembled the European hedgehog, and since it was a most intelligent and sensible animal, the observance continued into modern times. They also brought with them the tradition of Candlemas Day.

It was on this day, according to the Germans, the groundhog would pop his head out of his hole and if he saw his shadow, he'd pop back in for another six weeks for a longer winter nap; but if the day was cloudy, he'd remain out since the weather would be moderate.

Today, the largest and most famous Groundhog Day celebration is held at Gobbler’s Knob in Punxsutawney, Pa., with a groundhog named Punxsutawney Phil. This year was his 126th prognostication.

Prior to being called Phil, he was called Br’er Groundhog. It is unsure when, or why, but at some point, he was named Phil—after King Philip. 

Metacom, or King Philip, as the colonists named him, was the second son of Chief Massasoit of the Wampanoaug Tribe of Indians who helped the pilgrims through their first winter in 1620. He became leader of the Wampanoaug Confederacy in 1662 and was also known as Metacomet and Philip of Pokanoket.

So…enjoy yourself. Winter will be here for a few more weeks. Keep warm and watch for any more of those white flakes falling from the sky.

Don February 07, 2012 at 04:09 AM
In March 1620/21 the Wampanoag Massasoit, which was actually a title like sachem, not a name, created an alliance with Governor Bradford of Plimoth Plantation that would last long past Bradford's death. Unfortunately, the agreement, in part, was based on a very weak native community and a small English community of by then less than 100 people. Over the next ten years, Plimoth grew at an incredibly small rate. But in 1630, over 900 colonists settled what would become known as Boston, and for many years after, the immigration rate swelled, causing enormous tension between them and the natives. This would inevitably lead to the King Philip's War, fought in New England in 1675-6, when Philip led Wampanoag and Saco attacks against the English. Many towns and small settlements were raided and/or destroyed. Philip was eventually hunted down and killed in Rhode Island. Over 600 colonists and thousands of natives died in the war, including men, women, and children on both sides. While it did put an end to most native hostilities in New England, it was a bloody war. William Penn didn't get his charter to set up Pennsylvania until 1681. Punxsutawney Phil was named sometime in the late 19th century. It seems odd that Pennsylvanians would have named the groundhog after a native who led a bloody war against New England colonists before Pennsylvania was even established. Perhaps it was really just to fit the "p" of Punxsutawney like the Philadelphia Phillies or Boston Bruins.
Peggy Heminitz February 07, 2012 at 10:31 PM
Thanks, Don, for that bit of historical info. Very interesting!
S. Mackenzie February 08, 2012 at 01:47 AM
Nice to see a headline in Pennsylvania Dutch!
Peggy Heminitz February 08, 2012 at 01:52 AM
Thank you. I must admit I had a little help from my son with that, though. I hope to do more with future articles.

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