FRENCH CREEK, W.Va. -- West Virginia State Wildlife Center’s official weather prognosticator, French Creek Freddie, is poised to forecast the onset of spring on Saturday, Feb. 2, 2013 at 10 a.m. French Creek Freddie has undertaken his annual ritual at the West Virginia State Wildlife Center since 1978.
“Celebrating Groundhog Day at the Wildlife Center has become a very popular event,” said Wildlife Center Biologist Gene Thorn. “This year we’re hoping for a huge crowd to help us celebrate and witness Freddie’s annual prediction because the event falls on Saturday when the kids are out of school.”
In addition to the pageantry of seeing if Freddie sees his shadow, visitors can listen to poems and songs, enjoy refreshments, and compete in various wood chuckin’ contests.
According to tradition rooted in early European legend, Groundhog Day stems from similar beliefs associated with Candlemas Day. For centuries, early Christian clergy would bless candles and distribute them to the people. During the conquest of the northern country, Roman legions supposedly brought this tradition to the Germans, who concluded that if the sun made an appearance on Candlemas Day, the hedgehog would cast a shadow, thus predicting six more weeks of bad weather. The Germans would recite: For as the sun shines on Candlemas Day, so far will the snow swirl until the May.
Early German settlers in the New World found another burrowing animal, the woodchuck or groundhog, to be more plentiful then the hedgehog. Thus, the groundhog replaced the hedgehog as the traditional “wise animal” in North America.