Is it still Groundhog Day when you live in an area where there are no groundhogs? When there is no creature to determine how much of winter is left?
The superstition is that if the groundhog sees its shadow, there will be at least six more weeks of winter, which is a sure bet since this year there are six and a half weeks between February 2 and March 20, the official first day of spring. If the groundhog doesn’t see its shadow, there will still be six and a half weeks until spring, though supposedly, the temperatures will be a bit milder.
But what if there is no groundhog? Will there be six more weeks of winter? It’s still a sure bet!
Groundhogs, also known as woodchucks, are flatlanders and live in the eastern portion of the United States. Here in Colorado, we have yellow-bellied marmots, also known as rock chucks or whistle pigs, and they prefer higher elevations. Although groundhogs and marmots are not the same thing, they are both rodents of the squirrel family. The scientific name of the groundhog is Marmota monax. The name of the yellow-bellied marmot is Marmota flaviventris. So technically, the name of this day should be Marmot Day.
But either way, no matter what sort of creature you use to foretell the demise of winter and the coming of spring, a wood chuck, a rock chuck, or a chuckleheaded weather person, it still comes down to the same thing — six and a half more weeks of winter.
To be honest, here in Colorado, that’s a good thing. Too often we get early spring weather and then — so much fun! — we get a late-season Indian Winter. (Oops. Can’t say that. Indian Summer is now called Second Summer, so Indian Winter would be called Second Winter.) The problem with that upsurge of winter once spring has started to make itself felt is that new buds are “nipped” by the late freeze, damaging crops, preventing fruit trees from producing, and decimating or delaying spring flowers.
Luckily, despite what all those seer of seers, prognosticator of prognosticators say, spring will be here in a matter of 46 days.
Happy Marmot Day!
Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator.