Online Exclusive: Groundhog shadow nowhere to be found

Nicolas DePalma
staff writer

Punxsutawney Phil of Punxsutawney, PA, made his announcement Feb. 2 that spring will be coming early this year. The city’s “Inner Circle” declared that, once roused from his den, the groundhog was unable to see his shadow, just the 20th time in 124 years.

The first Groundhog Day was observed on Feb. 2, 1887, hosted by Clymer Freas, who proposed the idea to the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club. “The men trekked to a site called Gobbler’s Knob, where the inaugural groundhog became the bearer of bad news when he saw his shadow,” according to History.com. This inspired the renowned annual tradition of Groundhog Day.

Sophomore Alex Mockensturm expressed concern for the animal, considering how it must feel being the center of attention each Groundhog Day. “I also think it’s cruel because, you know, that poor groundhog, It must get really stressed. It’s got a lot of people watching.”

The holiday stems from an old belief of the Pennsylvania Dutch involving the weather on the particular day the groundhog is roused from its den. If the weather is clear and the groundhog happens to see its shadow, it will retreat back into its den for another six weeks: six more weeks of winter. On the other hand, if the weather is cloudy and the groundhog is unable to see its shadow, the following spring will arrive early.

Senior Stephen Rosov enjoys Groundhog Day: “It’s pretty good, I like it. I like the idea of it.” Rosov said the institution comes from Pagans, “You know, like Stonehenge? Same concept.”

Junior Karan Singh dislikes the idea of Groundhog Day. “It sucks. Letting an animal control the weather? I think not. We are the apex predator, we should not let small mammals control the weather.”

He agrees with Rosov that the holiday originates from Pagan tradition, but doesn’t believe it should continue.

Whereas a tradition would be expected to evolve and modernize over time, the coordinators of today’s Groundhog Day try to maintain the culture of the community when the holiday first came about, like speech and dress style. These people, known as the Inner Circle, wear outfits known to be common of people in the 1800s, and conduct the city proceedings in the Pennsylvania Dutch dialect. They supposedly speak to the groundhog in “Groundhogese.”

Groundhog Day is centered around the famous Punxsutawney groundhog: Punxsutawney Phil. The city’s Inner Circle has complete faith in their reliable rodent, but entrusting a groundhog to forecast the weather raises concerns for those who tend to be more skeptical.

According to the National Climactic Data Center, Phil has a mere 40 percent success rate, which isn’t a great number for he who determines the duration of winter. Skeptics believe there is no real connection between the shift in seasons and “vision” of the groundhog, merely coincidence. Others simply don’t care. “It’s unnecessary. It’s a fake holiday, like Valentines day,” said sophomore Katie Kerns.

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