It shouldn't surprise us. After all, it happens annually. It's just a shame that other events have to take a back seat Sunday to this phenomenon.


I'm not referring to the impeachment trial of President Trump nor the NFL's Super Bowl between the Chiefs and the 49ers. I'm talking about the annual visit of our furry rodent.


After the mid-January thaws, hopes for continuous warm weather freeze. Bitter, cold winds and frigid ice storms, blinding blizzards and whatever else old man winter throws our way, keep us in a prolonged state of misery.


Then comes February, and with it, a new hope for warmth. The second day of the new month spearheads that hope. Punxsutawney Phil, the most famous Groundhog of many weather predicting rodents, leads the way to whether we continue wrapping ourselves in warmth or donning spring outfits.


If the Groundhog sees his shadow, he's scared back into his hole and continues to hibernate for six more weeks or until the first days of spring; whichever comes first. However, if it's heavily overcast, perhaps on the verge of raining, Hallelujah! Hope has just melted away those winter blahs. Instead of continuing its hibernation, the groundhog stays out, a sign that spring is just around the corner. And if that's not a Northeast Ohio reason to celebrate, then I'll ice-fish in the middle of July.


In Germany, the badgers predict the arrival of spring for farmers. But there are few, if any, badgers to our east, where German farmers first settled in the 18th century. Instead, the Groundhog's used. As a result, it's our eastern neighboring state that gave birth to the Groundhog tradition.


According to Pennsylvania Dutch historian Don Yoder, the first mention of this special day was 1840. A Feb. 2 entry in a diary by James L. Morris, a Welshman from Morgantown, reveals how his German neighbors celebrate the second day of February by watching for woodchucks.


We're not the only ones who celebrate Groundhog Day. Beside Pennsylvania's Punxsutawney Phil, we, here to the Midwest, have Ohio's Buckeye Chuck of Marion and Huckleberry Holland of Holland.


Other areas in the United States and Canada also observe the day of the woodchuck. Nova Scotia has Shubenacadie Sam and in Ontario there's Wiarton Willy. Among New York's Groundhogs are the Big Apple's Staten Island Chuck in and Western New York's Dunkirk Dave.


In North Carolina, they have Sir Walter Wally and in the Peach State, the citizens of Lilburn, Ga., pin their hopes for an early spring in General Beauregard Lee.


Even the rest of the world's getting into the act. In 2017, Saint Petersburg, Samara and Moscow, Russia, have scheduled Groundhog Day to be observed at zoos.


Not all furry rodents maintain good behavior while basking in their 15 minutes of fame. Take Sun Prairie, Wis., the self-proclaimed Groundhog Capital of the World. In 2015, their weather prognosticator, Jimmy XI, bit the mayor's ear. It went viral. The next day a mayoral proclamation absolved the Groundhog of any wrongdoing.


And from his very first year of 2012, Potomac Phil, a furry taxidermic figure in the Nation's Capital, began his stuffed career with a scandal charge. Making predictions after his Punxsutawney counterpart, every year he'd agree with the Pennsylvania rodent a half hour later, and was soon suspected of plagiarism. In addition, Potomac Phil always added six more months of political gridlock. But when the writing finally appeared on the wall, the Washington rodent's most recent prognostication contradicted Punxsutawney Phil's forecast.


Potomac Phil's plagiaristic predictions almost caused a “Groundhog Gate.” Can you believe it? Only in the nation's capital!


But nothing more was heard about the potential cover-up after he added not just six months, but two more years of political insanity.


At least he's getting something right!


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