Canada’s most famous weather forecasting marmots called for an early Spring Tuesday as they video-provided their annual forecasts despite the lack of one in action due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Nova Scotia’s most famous marmot, Shubenacadie Sam, was the first to make his prediction. He emerged reluctantly from his little barn and apparently did not see his shadow.
The door to Sam’s enclosure was opened punctually at 8 a.m. local time, but the chubby rodent initially refused to come out.
With a winter storm falling on the Maritimes overnight, there was steady snowfall as Sam emerged from his cave and waddled a few steps from the front door.
The annual tradition at Shubenacadie Wildlife Park north of Halifax usually draws a lot of school children, but not this year. There were few spectators on Tuesday as the event was streamed live on Facebook in order to comply with COVID-19 health protocols.
As usual, Shubenacadie Sam was the first marmot in North America to make a prediction.
In the Val d’Espoir on Quebec’s Gaspe Peninsula, Fred La Marmotte was also reluctant to leave his miniature cabin.
When the rodent finally showed up during the livestream event, his handler held it to his ear and said it had predicted an early spring.
In Wiarton, Ontario, the community’s famous albino marmot, Wiarton Willie, was nowhere to be seen when officials called early spring after tossing a fur hat in the air – a move they said was on the first edition of tradition dating back more than 60 years ago.
“The committee decided to pay tribute to the first prediction (which did not include a marmot, just a fur hat) as it was the 65th anniversary this year and we were unable to host a live event due to COVID,” said the MP the city clerk said in an email.
The spring forecast was provided by Janice Jackson, Mayor of the City of South Bruce Peninsula, in a recorded video that also included a brief history of the event.
Meanwhile, those south of the border were told to expect six more weeks of winter when Punxsutawney Phil of Pennsylvania emerged from his den.
The animal performed its duties live on Groundhog Day, and more than 15,000 viewers tuned in at one point. No spectators were allowed in person due to the pandemic, but cardboard cutouts were added to mimic their presence.
A member of Phil’s “inner circle” noted the uniqueness of the past year.
“People were referring to Groundhog Day. It sometimes felt like we were all living on the same day over and over,” said one of the members. “Groundhog Day also shows us that monotony ends. The cycle is interrupted.”
According to folklore, when a marmot doesn’t see its shadow on marmot day, the spring-like weather will come soon. However, when the pug discovers its shadow, winter drags on.
Folklorists say the Groundhog Day ritual might have something to do with the landing on February 2nd between winter solstice and spring equinox, but nobody knows for sure.
In medieval Europe, farmers believed that when hedgehogs emerged from their burrows to catch insects, it was a sure sign of early spring.
When the Europeans settled in eastern North America, the hedgehog was replaced by the marmot.
With files from The Associated Press.This report by The Canadian Press was first published on February 2, 2021