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February 29, 2024

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Spring Housing Guide

It’s Groundhog Day?

Today is the day that happens once every calendar year. The day when a chubby bundle of fur predicts whether spring will be here in no time, or if there will be six more weeks of winter.

However, Groundhog Day has not always been known by that title.

Back in the 1700s when the Germans first settled on U.S. ground, they brought along a holiday known as Candlemas Day. Clergymen would deliver candles to the public the night before the day that marked the middle of the Winter Solstice and the Spring Equinox.

The candles would be lit and placed in windows of citizen’s homes. If the sun was visible on Feb. 2, legend would have it that six more weeks of winter would follow.

If the sun was shining, groundhogs would peep out of their burrows, see their shadows and turn back around for a six week’s nap. If the weather was cloudy, moderate weather was upon them and the groundhogs would stay outside of their homes.

Germans first began to monitor the shadow-watching with badgers, but decided to watch groundhogs as a replacement after settling in Pennsylvania.

The first official Groundhog Day began on Feb. 2, 1886 in Punxsutawney, Pa. with the crowned groundhog named Punxsutawney Phil. Over 100 years old, this 15-pound groundhog currently lives in a climate-controlled burrow, eating a unique menu consisting of ice cream and dog food.

Ever since Phil’s arrival, other famous groundhogs have popped up around the globe; including Dunkirk Dave from New York, Wiarton Willie from Canada, General Beauregard Lee from Georgia and Peewee the Woodchuck from Vermont.

Locally, the Wildwood Metroparks in Toledo have been celebrating Groundhog Day for 28 years and they have their own mascot named Wildwood Willie. However, he is a stuffed groundhog.

Heather Norris, a naturalist and historical interpreter at the Metroparks, shared the importance of having Willie as a mascot.

“Since people are not likely to see an actual groundhog on Groundhog Day, it became our way of showing the general public what a groundhog looked like,” she said.

Norris mentioned that groundhogs are still sleeping at this time of year, thus the low probability of sighting one.

“Groundhog Day is kind of a human holiday,” she said. “The only reason you see Punxsutawney Phil is because they actually pull him out of his burrow and hold him up. If you look, they have leather gloves up to their elbows because [groundhogs are] not real happy about getting pulled out.”

The park will be holding a celebratory event Friday from 10 a.m. to noon at the Ward Pavilion. The family-based program will consist of Groundhog crafts, songs and nature walks.

Dr. Lee Meserve, a professor in the Biological Science Department, talks about whether a groundhog has the capability to predict how long or short the winter will be.

“It’s always dangerous to say never,” he said. “There are people who are of the opinion that certain kinds of animals can predict earthquakes and there are typical seasonal cycles that animals have. From the standpoint of the cycling, it certainly is possible that a groundhog might come out of its burrow early in February, but it is probably not planning on staying around long.”

Graduate Student Teresa Pangle, has always been a fan of Groundhog Day ever since the Bill Murray movie of the same name premiered in 1993.

“I love the movie,” she said. “I grew up as a kid being able to quote all of Bill Murray’s movies, so naturally when Groundhog Day rolled around I felt like I was on the inside of the holiday, like it was an inside joke.”

“Last year around Groundhog Day I was so excited because I knew some television station would play that movie, but not a one did,” Pangle said. “Doesn’t TBS play 24 hours of ‘A Christmas Story’ on Christmas day? I think they should play 24 hours of ‘Groundhog Day’.”

As for how reliable famous groundhogs’ predictions have been over the years, the percentages are debatable.

However, the mere factor of instilling hope of an early spring can be found on Feb. 2 of every year.

“This year it hasn’t been particularly cold and nasty leading up to Groundhog Day until recently, but you get tired of that after awhile and you want to at least individually have a little bit of hope that maybe the weather will get better,” Meserve said.

“If you can make believe that the groundhog has told you it’s going to be sooner rather than later, it gives a little more hope.”

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