Malverne Mel has predicted an early spring.

Malverne Mel, Holtsville Hal and Quogue's Sam Champion (formerly Quigley), three of Long Island’s resident groundhog prognosticators, ended the day with a split decision.

Mel didn’t see his shadow Thursday morning, heralding an early spring. Hal did, and in the afternoon so did the Quogue groundhog, so it’s six more weeks of winter, according to those guys.

Meanwhile, their Pennsylvania cousin, perhaps the most famous marmot in America, Punxsutawney Phil, saw his shadow. And on Staten Island, the groundhog known as Chuck didn’t see his shadow, so his vote is for an early spring.

Who is right? Who knows? (And, some might ask, who cares?)

Pia Finnigan, an assistant librarian in the children's section of the Quogue Library, seemed ambivalent. 

“He did see the shadow so more winter,” she said after the groundhog ceremony near the library. She wants spring to come, but still, “I'm hoping for maybe one good storm.”

'At least someone’s excited'

Across the country, Groundhog Day events draw crowds, despite the early hour and often frigid temperatures.

At the Holtsville event, a child squealed with joy when more winter was announced by emcee Daniel Losquadro, the Brookhaven highway superintendent.

“Well, at least someone’s excited,” he said. “Because I tell you, the highway superintendent is not!”

In Malverne, the good news for winter haters came after some minor theatrics by Mayor Keith Corbett.

After peeking into Mel's den enclosure, Corbett emerged to announce what he saw — or didn't see.

Malverne Mayor Keith Corbett hears from Malverne Mel on Thursday...

Malverne Mayor Keith Corbett hears from Malverne Mel on Thursday that there will be an early spring. Credit: Howard Schnapp

When Mel is not busy forecasting the weather, he can be found at his home at the STAR Foundation, a wildlife rehabilitation group in Middle Island. There, the 4-year-old rodent enjoys belly scratches and his favorite snack: sweet potatoes, said his handler, Rose Purcell. 

Mel came to the facility as a baby. He was dehydrated and had a brain issue, rendering him unfit to be released into the Long Island wild. The organization tried to release him, but he came “screaming back,” Purcell said. 

The quirky critter, who is incredibly food motivated, is very playful, an unusual trait for a groundhog, his handler said. His bed is the love of his life and he loves to toss it around as if it’s a toy. 

“They’re not a pest animal,” Purcell said. “They’re important for the environment. He’s one of the sweetest woodchucks that we’ve had.”

Celtic tradition

Folklorist Don Yoder's 2003 book "Groundhog Day" says the holiday is related to the same cycle of pre-Christian festivals as Halloween and May Day.

"In astronomical terms, these holidays were the cross-quarter days, those days that fall midway between a solstice and an equinox. These festivals were apparently celebrated throughout Europe by the various tribes we now refer to as Celts. Yoder believes that they influenced the sense of time of all Europe and of the European colonies in America," the Library of Congress wrote in a blog post last year.

In the Celtic year, rather than solstices, there were four dates, akin to the dates used nowadays to mark seasons, that guided different parts of the year. 

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