Jill's Journal: Can a critter really predict the weather?

Jill Meier, Journal editor

Can a critter really predict the weather?

I’m sure hoping so.

Punxsutawney Phil did not see his shadow in front of thousands of spectators Friday morning at Gobbler’s Knob in Punxsutawney, Pa. That means, according to the legend, we’re in for an early spring.


This marks the first time since 2020 that Phil predicted an early spring, and the 21st time since records were kept.

If you look at the data, the famed groundhog has a record of seeing his shadow more often than not. Prior to 2024, Phil had seen his shadow 107 times and not seen his shadow 20 times. There were a few years in the late 1800s where there was no record of his forecast, and 1943 was the only year he did not make an appearance.

Although Groundhog Day isn’t an official holiday on the calendar – I found myself asking, why do we celebrate this day.

Here’s what I learned. Obviously, Groundhog Day is celebrated every Feb. 2, the same day as Candlemas, where some of the holiday’s traditions originate.

Candlemas was traditionally aligned with the anticipation of planting crops, according to the Old Farmer’s Almanac, and seeing sunshine on the day was said to indicate winter’s return.

In Europe, people traditionally looked to bears or badgers to look for the sign of returning winter or coming spring, but when German immigrants arrived in Pennsylvania, they instead used groundhogs to make the forecast instead.

The critter and Punxsutawney gained notoriety in 1993 when a movie by the same name, “Groundhog Day,” starring Bill Murray, hit the big screen. According to visitPA, more than 30,000 people travel to Punxsutawney each year to see Punxsutawney Phil’s prediction.

I know we’ve got weeks to go before winter is officially over here in South Dakota. But just like many of you, I’ve sure been enjoying this early “spring-like” weather we’ve been blessed with. And if Punxsutawney Phil has anything to do with an early spring, I guess a critter can predict the weather.

* * *

I’d like to put a plug in for the 39th annual Ed Polzine Wild Game Feed this Saturday at the Brandon VFW. The committee has been busy this week preparing lots of yummy entrees featuring the menu’s “guests of honor” and collecting oodles of impressive auction and raffle items.

And following Punsutawney Phil’s lead, the weather should be idea for a night out in helping a great cause.

The freewill donation buffet opens at 5:30 p.m. I’ll see you there!



The Brandon Valley Journal


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