Friday, 2 February 2018

Groundhog Day - again

Today - Friday 2 February - is Groundhog Day in the US and Canada. The observance centres around a groundhog called Punxsutawney Phil, from Gobbler’s Knob in the town of Punxsutawney Pennsylvania in the US.

Other towns across North America hold their own celebrations and observances of the day.

Groundhog Day became well-known in the UK thanks to the film of the same name starring Bill Murray. The film was a hit and the term became synonymous with repetition or déjà vu.

Tradition has it that if the groundhog sees its shadow on February 2 it will be frightened by it and will then return to its burrow, indicating that there will be 6 more weeks of winter. If it does not see its shadow, then spring is on the way.

This weather lore dates to pre-industrial Europe. February 2 is Candlemas in the Christian calendar. A spell of clear weather at this time of year was believed to indicate a prolonged winter. The groundhog will see its shadow in clear weather, but not if it’s cloudy. In Europe, especially Germany, the animal whose behaviour was used to determine the length of winter was the badger. Settlers coming to North America from Europe brought the tradition with them but used the groundhog in the absence of the badger.

There plenty of rhymes in the UK that were used to predict weather:

If Candlemas Day be fair and bright
Winter will have another fight
If Candlemas Day brings cloud and rain,
Winter won’t come again.

Used to predict rain, the rhyme "red sky at night, shepherd’s delight/red sky in the morning, shepherd’s warning" is probably the best known. "When spiders weave webs by noon/fine weather is going to follow soon" is another.

Hundreds of years of folklore have given us many different sayings and ways of predicting the weather, from the prevailing weather on saints’ days (Saint Swithun’s Day is an example) to animal behaviour.

Phil’s antics may indicate spring weather is on the way but the Spring Equinox – the first day of Spring -- will always be six weeks off -- whether he sees his shadow or not.

Let us know what your favourite ways of predicting weather are. And if it’s fine why not get out and about and visit one of our show homes?

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