Groundhog day is a tradition that comes to America from Germany. Early Germanic people believed that badgers had the ability to predict the weather, particularly the duration of winter. People would use this prediction to help make a decision when to plant crops.
As many Germans immigrated to America, especially to Pennsylvania, they kept this tradition alive using groundhogs instead of badgers. As legend goes, if the second day of February is cloudy, the groundhog will stay above ground, meaning that winter will soon be over. If the day is sunny, the groundhog will become scared of its shadow and return to its burrow, meaning six more weeks of winter.
Many towns in Pennsylvania hold local Groundhog Day events. The most famous event being in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania where over 40,000 people regularly arrive to find out if the groundhog will see its shadow or not. This event has officially been going on since 1886.
Groundhog Day events seem to have increased over the years since the release of the movie by the same name, which starred Bill Murray and was released in movie theaters over 20 years ago.
Around New York Harbor, we have Staten Island Chuck, or more formally known as Charles G. Hogg. Good ol’ Chuck is a groundhog who lives in the Staten Island Zoo in Staten Island, New York City.
Woodchucks or groundhogs or whistle pigs are rodents that live around New York Harbor as wild animals. They belong to the family Sciuridae (the squirrel family) and are related to "marmots," which are ground squirrels that can be found in the western United States. Woodchucks are diurnal (most active during the day) and are particularly active in the early morning and late afternoon hours. They stay close to their burrows when feeding and typically only stay above ground a couple of hours per day.
Unlike most mammals, woodchucks are true hibernators. They begin hibernation in October or November and come out of hibernation in mid- to late February, or whenever air temperatures gets warmer.
On Groundhog Day, Staten Island Chuck Predicts an Early Spring
By ELI ROSENBERGFEB. 2, 2016
The New York Times
Even for this relatively mild New York City winter, there may be early relief.
Charles G. Hogg, Staten Island’s weather-forecasting groundhog, predicted an early spring on Tuesday at the borough’s zoo, making his bold prognostication amid the excitement of a crowd of onlookers — and the notable absence of one public official.
The groundhog, Chuck to those who know him, emerged slowly from his lift, and perhaps sensing that a certain tall mayor was nowhere near, made some tentative moves to address the crowd.
He did not bite anyone this year, as he did in 2009 when he nibbled at Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg.
Nor were there any drops, like the groundhog’s fall from Mayor Bill de Blasio’s hands — and subsequent death — in 2014 that prompted allegations of a cover-up by city officials.
Instead Mr. de Blasio, who would normally lead the ceremony, was in Iowa after volunteering for Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign. In his place was Kathy Hochul, the lieutenant governor of New York, who embraced her turn in the spotlight.
As the groundhog emerged into his plexiglass playpen, Ms. Hochul gave him space.
Chuck slowly worked his way to a biscuit and warmed to the crowd around him.
“I’d like to pick him up,” Ms. Hochul said, reaching into the pen, as other officials glanced nervously around.
But she did not take the chance.
Eventually, Chuck was scooped up by a zoo employee, who brought him, squirming, to the podium as the crowd cheered the promise of an early spring.
Still, officials did not pass up a chance for a laugh by recalling Mr. de Blasio’s experience.
“There have been allegations of foul play in the past,” Michael McMahon, the district attorney, joked.
Ms. Hochul said that perhaps she was chosen for her stature.
“They sent the shortest elected official in the state,” she said. “That’s me.”