Anyone originally from a frigid winter state knows all about the fuss over Groundhog Day, the annual Feb. 2 ritual. Would winter last six more weeks, or would there be a reprieve? It’s not an event that gets attention in Green Valley, where temperatures last week were in the 70s.
For resident Joyce McQuown Smith it’s still a banner day. Smith hails from Punxsutawney in central Pennsylvania, and became an official Groundhog Ambassador in 1985. Living in Green Valley since 2004, she still has her collection of Groundhog Day paraphernalia, including a wood-carved groundhog, a t-shirt, a framed ambassador certificate, a groundhog-shaped cookie cutter from the days when she’d bake cookies and bring them to work on Groundhog Day, and other small trinkets.
Punxsutawney is where Groundhog Day originated on Feb. 2, 1886, and is where a ceremony is held every year. It’s a Pennsylvania Dutch superstition that if a groundhog—named Punxsutawney Phil—comes out of its burrow on Feb. 2 and sees a shadow due to clear weather, he will go back underground for another six weeks of winter. If it’s cloudy when the groundhog emerges and he doesn’t see his shadow, spring will arrive early.
As a Groundhog Ambassador, I spread the word, Smith said.
Someone has to nominate you and then you need to be approved by a Groundhog Day committee.
Technically, she's still ambassador, though dormant.
She recalled the hoopla of Groundhog Day when she lived in Punxsutawney and said men would drag a groundhog out from a burrow under a stump.
There were groundhog earrings, shirts, things to stimulate the economy. Groundhog Day became crazy after 1993, when the movie of the same name came out, she said.
It’s not too exciting here; it doesn’t have much kick, Smith said.
Groundhog Day orginated from the Christian celebration Candlemas Day, which marked the midpoint between the winter solstice and the spring equinox. Weather lore was brought from German-speaking areas, where the badger is viewed as a forecasting animal.
In cold-weather states and Canada, Feb. 2 still gets due attention. Phil's prediction this year? He saw his shadow on Friday — six more weeks of winter. It's good to be in Arizona.