Saturday, February 02, 2008

Groundhog Day

Groundhog DayDigital Library System: the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's online digital media library. Presently, the library system contains the National Image Library--the Service's collection of public domain still photos and line art.

Creator: Hines, Bob. Source: WO-ART-74-CDHines1. Publisher: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Contributor: DIVISION OF PUBLIC AFFAIRS. Language: EN - ENGLISH. Rights: (public domain). Audience: (general)


Whomever picked February 2 for groundhog day must have gotten their dates mixed. On that day, says Arthut H. Howell of the Bureau of Biological Survey, U. S. Department of Agriculture, who is an authority on ground hogs, every sensible groundhog is sleeping soundly in his underground burrow, The popular notion of the groundhog as an indicator of weather conditions is a superstition that today has only a whimsical foundation, according to the biologist.

Its origin is unknown, though there are various explanations. It may have been imported from Europe, where there is a similar long standing superstition about the significance of the hedge hog’s appearance on Candlemas’ Day (February 2).

Early settlers may have transferred this belief to the ground hog a distinctly different animal. Because the name is "ground hog" day, Mr. Howell believes that the superstition met have originated in southern States. There the animal is called a ground hog; in the northern States it is called a woodchuck. Another naturalist has traced the beginning of the belief to the negroes of the "middle eastern States". As a matter Of fact, however, there are no grounds at all on which to base the ground hog's reputation as a weather prophet, says Mr. Howell; the notion lives today merely because it is picturesque.

If there were a day on which the woodchuck forejudges the winter's duration, it would not be February 2 anywhere in the United States. Actual records indicate that the sleeper does not rouse himself until the latter half of February and often not until the early days of March. The earliest date on record for the ground hog's appearance, says Mr. Howell, is February 7, and this occurred down in North Carolina where the winters are not so long as in the northern States.

So the tradition that the ground hog rouses from its winter’s sleep on February
2, that it cozies out of its burrow and ends its hibernation if it sees no shadow, and that its actions have meteorological significance has no value in itself. It should be classed with prophecies like these: “As the first of January is, so will be all the rest of the month", and "The second of January determines the weather of February and also that of September". As the Weather Bureau of the United States Department of Agriculture pointed out on ground hog day of 1929, the best way to tell what the weather is going to be on any number of days is to go on each of these days to the little box in the upper corner of one’s daily newspaper* NO GROUND UP ON GROUND HOG DAY

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