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

Town council holds a busy Feb. 24th meeting

Two new bylaws were introduced and the issue of sea cans in residential zones was discussed

PHOTO: Congratulations to Percy Farebrother for skipping his rink to victory at the Castor Men’s Bonspiel

‘All enjoyed wonderful food and the best curling ice in the country’

Town of Castor receives Coronation RCMP Detachment acting commander as delegation during Feb. 24th meeting

Cpl. Chad Salmi came to introduce himself as well as to see what priorities council had for the RCMP

Fashion Fridays: Tammy’s big makeover

Kim XO, helps to keep you looking good on Fashion Fridays on the Black Press Media Network

UPDATED: Racist slurs lead to school hold and secure at Ponoka school

Ermineskin Cree Nation Chief Makinaw responds

Greta sticker that drew outrage in Alberta not child pornography: RCMP

X-Site Energy Services has denied having anything to do with the stickers

Courts to decide regarding Ponoka County’s north-west area structure plan

Ponoka Right To Farm Society versus Ponoka County

Canada prepared to monitor for community spread of COVID-19: Tam

The U.S. confirmed one case of the new coronavirus, or COVID-19, in California Thursday

11-year-old Sylvan Lake burn survivor using his story to inspire others

Kaden Howard was recently named the 2020 Champion Child for the Stollery in Edmonton

Conservative MP questions whether rail blockades constitute terrorism

Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett travelled to B.C. to meet Indigenous leaders

Lawsuit over African mine can be heard in British Columbia: Supreme Court

B.C. courts dismissed Nevsun’s attempts to make Eritrea the forum for any lawsuit proceedings

MPs to examine privacy implications of facial-recognition technology used by RCMP

The MPs will look at how the technology affects the privacy, security and safety of children

Most Read