Lexington Park, MD – Groundhog Day is indeed a day to give attention to the large furry rodent who supposedly delivers a long-range weather forecast. The prognostication procedure is pretty simple—if the groundhog sees its shadow there will be six more weeks of winter.

The web site “Earth Sky” declares Groundhog Day (Feb. 2) “has its roots in astronomy. Groundhog Day falls more or less between the December Solstice and the March Equinox.” In Germany, where hedgehogs inhabit the woodlands, the belief was that if the animal saw its shadow on the day of the religious observance Candlemas, “he would crawl back into his hole for another six months. German immigrants brought the tradition to the America with them, substituting the hedgehog with the groundhog. The first Groundhog Day celebration in Gobblers Knob near Punxsutawney, PA happened during the late 19th century.

Celebrations of the occasion occur in both rural and urban settings. Ashville (North Carolina) Citizen Times writer Katie Wadington reported Western North Carolina’s Chimney Rock Park awaits the emergence of Greta the Groundhog Feb. 2. On the same day the park observes “White Squirrel Day.”

The web site Tripsavvy reports that New York City’s Staten Island Zoo is home to Staten Island Chuck (I know, it sounds like a steakhouse entrée). In 2009 the zoo’s groundhog bit Mayor Michael Bloomberg. In 2014, New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio inadvertently dropped the groundhog. Sadly, the animal died a few months later.

The web site Garden and Gun reported that Broussard, LA is home to the “Cajun Groundhog,” which is really a nutria (crossword puzzle fanatics know that is a swamp rat. The Cajun Groundhog’s name is “Shadeaux.”

Next to Punxsutawney, America’s biggest Groundhog celebration is occurring in Woodstock, IL. The town declares “Every Day Is Groundhog Day in Woodstock.” The Illinois town started celebrating Tuesday. On Saturday, in addition to observing the groundhog’s weather prediction, the day’s highlights include “groundhog bowling,” a chili cookoff and a chance to meet Ned Ryerson. Actually, the meeting is with Stephan Tobolowsky, who played the annoying insurance salesman in the classic movie Groundhog Day. In addition to being a successful character actor, Tobolowsky is an author and musician who once jammed with Stevie Ray Vaughn. In case you weren’t aware, Groundhog Day, the 1993 movie, while being about the Punxsutawney celebration, was filmed in Woodstock, which is northwest of Chicago and near the Wisconsin border.

Groundhog Day gives winter-weary denizens of the Earth hope for springtime. No matter the outcome, after Feb. 2 the next season is that much closer.

Contact Marty Madden at marty.madden@thebaynet.com