Celebrity Groundhog Dies: How Did He Get His Job Predicting the Weather?

© Milltown Mel/facebookMilltown Mel
Milltown Mel - Sputnik International, 1920, 02.02.2022
Every year in early February, many eyes in North America are glued to their TV sets as celebrity groundhogs predict the arrival of spring. An old superstition says that if a groundhog emerges from its burrow on this day and sees its shadow due to clear weather, it will return it its den, heralding six more weeks of winter.
An annual tradition of forecasting the weather has been overshadowed by sad news: celebrity groundhog Milltown Mel, who was responsible for predicting when spring would arrive in New Jersey, has died, according to his handlers.
As Mel has "recently crossed over the rainbow bridge", it effectively cancelled the ceremony in the Garden State, because no replacement could be found.

"We will work hard on getting us a new weather prognosticator for next year," said the Milltown Wranglers, the groundhog's handlers, urging the residents of New Jersey to "check out what all of Mel's cousins have to say" regarding the end of the winter.

But the tradition won't end with Mel, and it's also a lot older than the late weather forecaster.

Who Came Up with Groundhog Day?

The spring forecasting tradition has its roots in an old Pennsylvania Dutch superstition, according to which, if a groundhog emerges from his burrow in early February and sees its shadow because the skies are clear, it will retreat into its den, heralding six more weeks of winter.
However, if the day is cloudy and the groundhog does not see its shadow, it will emerge from its place of winter slumber, signalling an early spring.
The lore comes to the United States from Europe, where people would observe badgers' behaviour in order to try and forecast weather conditions. Later, groundhogs became the successors of the ritual.
Pennsylvania has been observing this tradition for the longest amount of time. There, a groundhog named Punxsutawney Phil has predicted when spring would arrive since 1886. Some may ask how the groundhog has been able to live for so long, and the answer is simple: Phil is believed to be sustained by drinks of "groundhog punch" or an "elixir of life" that is administered at the annual Groundhog Picnic in the fall. The wondrous groundhog received its name in 1961.
The famous Pennsylvania ceremony is organised by the so-called "Inner Circle" – recognisable from their hats and tuxedos. According to the group, Phil speaks to its current president in "Groundhogese" - the language that only the current president is able to understand - and only then the prediction is translated and revealed to the public.
Despite the Punxsutawney lore, Phil is not the only groundhog in America that predicts the seasons: there are also Dunkirk Dave and Staten Island Chuck in New York, along with Buckeye Chuck in Marion, Ohio.
According to the Staten Island Advance, Chuck, also known as Charles G. Hogg, has historically been more accurate than Phil, having an overall accuracy rate of 80 percent.

Groundhog Day Gone Wrong

The traditional ceremonies haven't always gone well. In 2021, the Canadian town of Wiarton faced a groundhog-related drama that revolved around Willie - a local forecaster who enjoyed so much love from the residents that there were statues built in his honour.
Unlike Pennsylvania's Phil, Willie's days were numbered. The animal died last year, but the authorities appeared to have covered up his death. Wiarton's annual groundhog festival did not feature Willie, and it drew questions from the locals. Months later, the authorities admitted the death of the beloved groundhog - only to unveil an entire slew of cover-ups of rodent deaths.
To participate in the discussion
log in or register
Заголовок открываемого материала