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David Beaulieu

Did the Groundhog See His Shadow?

By February 2, 2014

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Who is Punxsutawney Phil? picture of woodchuck And why do we ask whether he saw his shadow? For those who have never watched the movie, Groundhog Day, Punxsutawney Phil is the name of the famous groundhog in Punxsutawney, PA who annually predicts when spring will come based on whether he sees his shadow on February 2.

On the morning of February 2, 2014, Punxsutawney Phil did see his shadow when he came out of his burrow for breakfast. Of course, what that really means is that his handlers, in their infinite wisdom, decided, for whatever mysterious reasons, that this would be a "shadow year," signaling that we will be have 6 more weeks of winter.

But for me, there are two entirely separate aspects to Groundhog Day. We might term these two aspects the entertainment side and the psychological side. The festivities at Gobbler's Knob in Punxsutawney, where we learn whether or not Phil saw his shadow, highlight the entertainment side.

I'm much more interested in the psychological aspect of Groundhog Day, though. Falling as it does half-way between the winter solstice and spring equinox, Groundhog Day's true significance has nothing to do with Phil's shadowy antics. In acknowledging that we've reached winter's midpoint on February 2, we can permit ourselves a deep breath, confident that, regardless of Phil's prediction, spring is now in sight.

Let us know your view: Groundhog Day -- Hope or Hooey?

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Photo Courtesy of the Postcard Service at PunxsutawneyPhil.com

Comments

February 2, 2009 at 12:11 pm
(1) landscaping says:

Lots of people dismiss Groundhog Day as just “myth” or “something made up.” But does this tell the whole story? Myth was a big part of ancient Greek culture, and yet we honor its manifestation in that culture. Something’s being based on myth or fiction — be it Groundhog Day or anything else — doesn’t necessarily disqualify it from having value.

You might quickly wish to add, “Yeah, maybe for some.” I’m comfortable with that. But without some admission of the value of fiction, the world of movies, TV, literature, music, etc., as we know it, wouldn’t exist.

Groundhog Day really isn’t mainly about Punxsutawney Phil’s prediction, strangely enough. That’s not what it’s about for me, at least. It’s really about celebrating the fact that we’re halfway through winter.

Note: Don’t be confused by the dates on these comments. You’ll see dates from different years. That’s because I save the best comments from year to year and reuse them each Groundhog Day. Obviously I have to delete any old comments that refer to whether or not Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow in a given year, because those remarks have only temporary relevance and would only confuse folks if I allowed them to hang around from year to year. ~ David Beaulieu, About.com Landscaping

February 10, 2009 at 2:13 pm
(2) Carlos says:

I think President Obama needs to appoint a new Groundhog.

February 10, 2009 at 3:39 pm
(3) landscaping says:

But first make sure the would-be new Groundhog has no tax issues.

February 13, 2009 at 1:34 pm
(4) Lisa says:

How does a groundhog tell you he saw his shadow? I don’t get it.

February 13, 2009 at 5:39 pm
(5) landscaping says:

Lisa,

As I relate in Groundhog Day, the Groundhog’s handlers “hear” his prediction, then “translate” the Groundhog-ese into English, for the rest of us. The nay-sayers would say the Groundhog’s handlers make it all up, themselves. But the more good-natured folks out there just “play along.”

April 25, 2009 at 10:21 pm
(6) marissa says:

The Groundhog is awesome! He comes out on my birthday. I also don’t get the shadow part. How can they tell if he saw it or not?

April 26, 2009 at 9:00 am
(7) landscaping says:

Marissa,

If the answer to the question, “Did the Groundhog see his shadow?” were answered rationally, the deciding factor would be the presence or absence of sunshine on February 2. Sunshine would yield a shadow; the Groundhog would see no shadow on a cloudy day.

Of course, rationality doesn’t play a huge role in Groundhog Day, so other, mysterious factors may come into play, too….

February 2, 2010 at 9:50 pm
(8) Anna says:

How do they get the groundhog to come out of his burrow on the specific day of February 2? Love Carlos comment!

February 2, 2010 at 11:38 pm
(9) landscaping says:

Anna,

It’s not a natural burrow that the Groundhog lives in. It’s a contained area that they can just pull him out of.

February 7, 2010 at 7:44 pm
(10) Mojo says:

You folks that think the groundhog actually determines when spring comes are out of your minds.

Of course he will see his shadow with all the camera lights on him. Or the lights scare him back in every year. It’s just a tradition and does not determine the length of winter.

February 7, 2010 at 10:01 pm
(11) landscaping says:

Mojo wrote: “You folks that think the Groundhog actually determines when spring comes….”

I don’t think anyone here really thinks that. We’re just having fun with it. Then again, as surreal as the news these days sounds to my ears sometimes, who knows?

February 12, 2010 at 9:11 am
(12) tmajor says:

I think it’s just all for fun and gives us hope. Poor Groundhog, though, LOL. Technically we only have like 6 (give or take a few) weeks for spring anyways.

February 2, 2011 at 9:26 am
(13) james says:

yeah i live in canada too that furry son of a groundhog bettr not have seen his shotow

February 2, 2011 at 9:30 am
(14) landscaping says:

Hi Scotty,

Groundhog Day 2011 is giving us a different result, fortunately.

February 2, 2013 at 11:54 am
(15) mike says:

Just a reminder for people: in the years when Punxsutawney Phil does not see his shadow, that means we will have an early spring. People always get it mixed up — what the shadow means. Here it is in Layman’s terms: If it’s sunny on Groundhog Day (hence he sees a shadow), we’re going to pay for it with bad weather at the end of the season…. If it’s cloudy on Groundhog Day (hence no shadow), we’ll be rewarded with good weather at the end of the season. Basically if it’s nice now, it’ll be bad then. Or if it’s bad now, it’ll be nice then. It’s basically the law of averages. Nice half the time, bad the other half. Old wives tale regardless. Now let’s go eat some Groundhog — Yum, Yum!

February 2, 2013 at 12:03 pm
(16) Paul says:

The movie is a classic, and the groundhog makes for great folk lore.

February 2, 2013 at 6:03 pm
(17) Ericka says:

I heard that if he doesn’t see his shadow, then we’re gonna have an early spring. If he does see his shadow, that’s bad — 6 more weeks of winter. But is that the way it works? Can someone give me an answer? [Editor's note: You've got it right, Ericka!]

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