Our Canadian winters can be long, so it’s nice to inject a little fun into a chilly February morning. Tomorrow, just before 8, many hardy souls will gather at various groundhog burrows  across the country to watch a little critter forecast the weather for the next 6 weeks.

It seems a little strange, but it’s a mid-winter ritual that’s been going on for a very long time.   This ancient festival marks the midpoint of winter, halfway between the shortest day and the spring equinox.

The legend of Groundhog Day is based on an old Scottish couplet: “If Candlemas Day is bright and clear, there’ll be two winters in the year.”

There is no real mystery here: if the sun is shining when the groundhog emerges from his hole, he will see his shadow, and be scared back inside. Winter will continue for 6 more weeks.    If the morning of February 2nd is cloudy, there’ll be no shadow, and the groundhog will stay out, marking an early spring.

So where does the term Candlemas come from?

Candlemas Day is a Christian holiday that celebrates Mary’s ritual purification and the presentation of Christ in the temple. They believed that if the sun came out on that particular day, winter would last for six more weeks.  It was also the day of the year when all the candles, that were used in the church during the coming year, were brought into church and a blessing was said over them - so it was the Festival Day (or 'mass') of the Candles.

So should we put much credence in the furry prognosticator?

Well, it’s your call, but Canadian groundhog predictions are not very accurate:  based on several decades of data, they are correct only 37%  of the time.

Happy Groundhog Day!

Chief Meteorologist

Cindy Day