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

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

A man wearing a face mask to help curb the spread of COVID-19 walks in downtown Vancouver, B.C., Sunday, Nov. 22, 2020. The use of masks is mandatory in indoor public and retail spaces in the province. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
104 new COVID-19 cases in Interior Health

IH is reporting the new numbers since Friday, Nov. 20

Salmon Arm RCMP nabbed two Calgary suspects in an allegedly stolen vehicle on Highway 1 on Nov. 22, 2020. (File photo)
Salmon Arm RCMP use spike belts on Highway 1 to nab Calgary suspects

Arrests occur after Revelstoke RCMP clock allegedly stolen vehicle going faster than 160 km/h

Greg Rose spent several weeks working alongside Tammy VanSickle to ensure a smooth transition as he took over the business on Monday, Nov. 16. (Submitted)
The show goes on: Roxy theatre changes hands

It will remain a theatre says new manager Greg Rose

RCMP Cpl. Cory Lepine pictured at BC Livestock Producers Co. in Kamloops, Nov. 16. (Phil McLachlan - Black Press Media)
Meet B.C.’s only cowboy cop; a voice for the livestock industry

Cpl. Cory Lepine serves as a bridge between the law and those who make a living off the land

People wearing face masks to help curb the spread of COVID-19 cross a street in downtown Vancouver, on Sunday, November 22, 2020. The use of masks is mandatory in indoor public and retail spaces in the province. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. reports 17 COVID deaths, 1,933 new cases as hospitalizations surge over the weekend

There are 277 people in hospital, of whom 59 are in ICU or critical care

An aerial shot of Cedar Valley Lodge this past August, LNG Canada’s newest accommodation for workers at the project site in Kitimat. This is where several employees are isolating after a COVID-19 outbreak was declared last Thursday (Nov. 19). (Photo courtesy of LNG Canada)
Forty-one positive COVID-19 cases associated with the LNG Canada site outbreak in Kitimat

Thirty-four of the 41 cases remain active, according to Northern Health

A concept rendering of the proposed Costco at the corner of Baron, Leckie and Springfield roads. (WSP Global)
Contentious Kelowna Costco relocation moved to public hearing

Costco looking to move less than a kilometre away to build a larger store with more parking, gas bar

7-year-old Mackenzie Hodge from Penticton sent a hand-written letter to premiere John Horgan asking if she’d be able to see her elf, Ralph under the new coronavirus restrictions. (John Horgan / Twitter)
Elf on the shelf an acceptable house guest B.C. premier tells Okanagan girl

A 7-year-old from Penticton penned a letter asking if she’d be allowed to see her elf this year

Workers arrive at the Lynn Valley Care Centre seniors home, in North Vancouver, B.C., on Saturday, March 14, 2020. It was the site of Canada’s first COVID-19 outbreak in a long-term care facility. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Rapid tests ‘not a panacea’ for care homes, Dr. Bonnie Henry says

B.C. lacks capacity for daily tests of thousands of workers

(Delta Police Department photo)
Cannabis edibles found in Halloween bag lead B.C. police to illegal lab

Delta police arrested a man and a woman while executing a warrant at a residential property Nov. 20

RCMP pictured at a motor vehicle incident during snowy conditions. (Phil McLachlan - Black Press Media)
B&E, stolen car in Vernon lands Whitehorse man in cuffs

Suspect takes off on foot in attempts to evade arrest

Penticton Search and Rescue along with the Penticton Fire Department located and airlifted an injured 21-year-old female hiker Sunday, Nov. 22, 2020. (Mike Biden photo)
Penticton search and rescue airlift injured hiker off mountain

There has been an unprecedented amount of calls for search and rescue this year

Most Read