Ontario Premier Doug Ford checks out Wiarton Willie Sunday, Feb. 2, 2020 in Wiarton, Ont. with MPP Bill Walker laughing over his shoulder. Willie did not see his shadow and predicts an early spring. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Doug Ball

Canadian groundhogs divided on winter weather predictions

One groundhog saw his shadow but two others didn’t

The folksy, mid-winter tradition known as Groundhog Day saw Canada’s best-known shadow-casting critters divided in their weather predictions on Sunday.

Nova Scotia’s Shubenacadie Sam emerged from his burrow northeast of Halifax, and according to his handlers, saw his shadow. But in Ontario and Quebec, Wiarton Willie and Fred la Marmotte were paraded before their respective audiences and evidently saw no shadow.

Folklore has it that if a groundhog sees its shadow on Feb. 2, it will retreat into its burrow, heralding six more weeks of cold weather, which is not bad by most Canadian standards. No shadow is said to foretell spring-like temperatures are on the way.

Sam is always the first groundhog in North America to make a prediction about how long winter will last, with Willie offering a guess about an hour later.

This year, the festivities at Shubenacadie Wildlife Park surrounding Sam’s annual prognostication were cancelled this year due to a blustery snowstorm that hit the region on Saturday night.

But the fanfare went ahead in Wiarton, Ont., where Mayor Janice Jackson was joined by Premier Doug Ford and the so-called “shadow cabinet” to announce the rodent’s forecast.

The event was not without its share of excitement, however, when Jackson misinterpreted Willie’s supposed forecast.

She initially told the town crier that because the rodent saw no shadow, winter was here to stay.

“I messed up!” she told the crowd, laughing. “I messed up totally!”

The group on stage then repeated the ritual, with Jackson double checking before interpreting the critter’s prediction for the second time.

“What am I supposed to say?” she asked through a wide grin.

Willie was backed up by his Quebecois counterpart, Fred la Marmotte of Val-d’Espoir, who also suggested spring was nigh.

Pennsylvania’s Punxsutawney Phil also made an appearance Sunday morning with his top-hatted handlers before a huge crowd at Gobbler’s Knob, and predicted an early spring.

The Groundhog Day ritual may have something to do with Feb. 2 landing midway between winter solstice and spring equinox, but no one knows for sure.

Some say the tradition can be traced to Greek mythology, or it could have started with Candlemas, a Christian custom named for the lighting candles during the feast of the Purification of the Virgin Mary.

One Scottish couplet summed up the superstition: “If Candlemas Day is bright and clear, there’ll be two winters in the year.”

In medieval Europe, farmers believed that if hedgehogs emerged from their burrows to catch insects, that was a sure sign of an early spring.

However, when Europeans settled in eastern North America, the groundhog was substituted for the hedgehog.

On the West Coast, they now call on marmots like Van Island Violet. Like groundhogs, marmots are a type of large ground squirrel.

For most winter-weary Canadians, Groundhog Day is a welcome distraction, but these pug-nosed rodents don’t have a great track record when it comes to long-term forecasting.

In his book, “The Day Niagara Falls Ran Dry,” climatologist David Phillips cites a survey of 40 years of weather data from 13 Canadian cities, which concluded there was an equal number of cloudy and sunny days on Feb. 2.

During that time, the groundhogs’ predictions were right only 37 per cent of the time.

VIDEO: Heavy rain on B.C. coast swells rivers, floods roads and forces evacuations

The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Weather

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

First presumptive case of coronavirus identified in the Interior Health region

The woman, in her 30s, travelled from Shanghai and lives in the interior

TNRD purchases property for new Ashcroft/Cache Creek Eco-Depot

New facility will be built at former chip reload plant site off Highway 1

Ashcroft council supports curling club and rink in 2020 budget

Budget includes funds to do necessary equipment upgrades at curling rink

Grant allows Ashcroft seniors to benefit from music and memories

New program will help seniors at Thompson View, Jackson House, and beyond with the gift of music

More filming coming to area means more training opportunities

The film commissioner for the Thompson-Nicola Film Commission says that although the… Continue reading

VIDEO: Minister reports ‘modest progress’ after blockade talks with First Nation

Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs say Coastal GasLink does not have authority to go through their lands

Henrique scores 2 as Ducks soar past Canucks 5-1

Vancouver tumbles out of top spot in Pacific Division

Trudeau cancels Caribbean trip amid pipeline protests across Canada

Protests against Coastal GasLink have disrupted rail service

B.C. VIEWS: Inaction on pipeline protests not a viable response

Columnist Frank Bucholtz on how the Coastal GasLink pipeline dispute got so bad

PHOTOS: Top 10 memories of the 2010 Olympics

Black Press Media’s Jenna Hauck, shares some of her most memorable images of 2010 Winter Games

#FoxForFiver: Support grows in B.C. to put Terry Fox on new $5 bill

Terry Fox’ Marathon of Hope raised money for cancer research

Registration opens soon for BC 55+ Games in Richmond

2020 55+ Games have been officially scheduled for Sept. 15 to 19

Trudeau confers with cabinet ministers as rail blockades continue

The Trudeau government has been criticized for not doing more to end the blockades

Canadian nurses’ unions warn national standards for coronavirus protection too low

President says safety protocols nationwide are inadequate compared to those in Ontario and other countries

Most Read