National Today, an online holiday website, surveyed 1,035 Americans about Groundhog Day.
The surveyors found that:
• Some 3 percent of Americans have used Groundhog Day as an excuse to not go to work.
• Half of Americans don’t actually know when Groundhog Day is (it’s today). When asked what date Groundhog Day falls on, only 49 percent of Americans answered correctly. Punxsutawney Phil would be ashamed!
• Americans are a little confused about Groundhog Day. While 89 percent of Americans understand what Groundhog Day is about, another 11 percent don’t really get it. Wikipedia notes that “According to folklore, if it is cloudy when a groundhog emerges from its burrow on this day, then the spring season will arrive early, some time before the vernal equinox; if it is sunny, the groundhog will supposedly see its shadow and retreat back into its den, and winter weather will persist for six more weeks.”
The top five most surprising perceptions of Groundhog Day found by National Today surveyors were:
1: I think Groundhog Day is a pointless holiday — 30 percent.
2: I have never seen a real groundhog — 24 percent.
3: I celebrate Groundhog Day by watching the movie, “Groundhog Day” — 13 percent.
4: The real meaning of Groundhog Day is Punxsutawney Phil — 12 percent. Punxsutawney Phil is the groundhog in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, who predicts the end of winter at the largest celebration of Groundhog Day in the country.
5: I believe the groundhog is always right about the weather — 8 percent.
It’s doubtful that groundhogs are actually accurate predicters of when spring weather will arrive. The StormFax Weather Almanac has reported that the groundhog has been right just 39 percent of the time. It’s kept records since 1887 when Clymer H. Freas, a newspaper editor in Punxsutawney, established the “holiday.” A Canadian study found the percentage to be even lower — 37 percent.
But that hasn’t kept fans from flocking to sites around the country every Feb. 2 to see what the furry rodents have to say.
In Ohio, we have Buckeye Chuck in Marion. Last year, he told us we’d have six more weeks of winter. His cousin, Chattanooga Chuck, annually predicts for Tennessee residents. Another cousin, Chesapeake Chuck, pops up in Newport News, Virginia. New Yorkers can watch for Staten Island Chuck in the Big Apple or for Malverne Mel, Holtsville Hal or Dunkirk Dave farther upstate.
Over in Connecticut, there’s Chuckles in Manchester. French Creek Freddie greets West Virginians and General Beauregard Lee looks for his shadow in Lilburn, Georgia. North Carolinians watch for Grady the Groundhog in Chimney Rock or Nibbles in Asheville. It’s Jimmy the Groundhog in Sun Prairie, Wisconsin; Stormy Marmot in Aurora, Colorado; Woodstock Willie in Woodstock, Illinois; and a rodent with French ancestors, Pierre C. Shadeaux, in New Iberia, Louisiana.
Down the road in New Orleans, where things are always a shade more colorful, it’s not a groundhog at all, but T-Boy the Nutria who gets the Feb. 2 attention.
Our neighbors to the north also have their share of winter-or-spring predictors: Balzac Billy in Balzac, Alberta; Fred la Marmotte in Val d’Espoir, Quebec; Shubenacadie Sam in Shubenacadie, Nova Scotia; and Wiarton Willie in Wiarton, Ontario, all make their annual appearances on cue.
Whether they’re accurate or not, spring weather will come eventually and we can’t do anything about how long it will take to arrive. Even if Chuck or Phil or Sam or Pierre sees his shadow (and — just a thought — why isn’t there a Gertrude, Grace or Gladys Groundhog somewhere? Why are they always male?), there have been plenty of years when it stays cold here way beyond six weeks and it’s still snowing in early April! But isn’t it fun to pretend that furry little critters really do know something we don’t? A bright diversion in deep and dark midwinter!
Reach the writer at 937-538-4824.
Reach the writer at 937-538-4824.