February 2, an astrological event, falls more or less midway between December solstice and March equinox. The celebration of Candlemas was observed as a holy day marking the first time Jesus was brought to the Jewish temple by the Virgin Mary. Now recognized as Groundhog Day in the United States and Canada, Punxsutawney Phil predicted six more weeks of winter in Pennsylvania this morning before I arose to sunshine in northern California.
Who is this immortal rodent who reigns on Groundhog Day? This particular woodchuck has forced his opinion upon us mortals for the last decade, maybe longer. Phil, the current heavyweight at 20 pounds, is believed to have outlived his predecessors because he isn’t exposed to the wild. His home is Groundhog Zoo, an annex of the town library. Famous Phil succumbs to nature like most eastern U.S. groundhogs. He gorges himself during summer and hibernates from frosty fall to the beginning of spring. Perhaps he would sleep longer without the tap, tap of the official handler for Groundhog Day urging him out to predict the weather.
With 60% of Phil’s forecasts wrong, why bother? Tradition keeps the legend alive. Tradition mingled with tourists produces fame, fun, and financial income.