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Groundhog Day History

Groundhog Day History

The weather forecast is what everyone watches. Groundhogs predicting weather and climate, is so much fun. Let's read about the tradition that exists for more than 200 years.
CelebrationJoy Staff
Groundhog Day
A tradition that has been celebrated in North America and Canada for years, since the 1800s to give you an idea, that is what this day is all about. It is celebrated with a lot of color, cleaning and celebration in New York and Pennsylvania on February 2nd. You can even have an anticipation-spring party if you want to have some fun.

So what happens on February 2nd every year? A woodchuck, groundhog, ground squirrel or marmot comes out of its burrow and checks for its shadow. If it sees a shadow it will go back into its burrow for 6 more weeks of winter and if there is no shadow it will stay on the ground and this means spring is near.


Most people think that this tradition was brought about by the German settlers in Pennsylvania, though this is true there is another significance. This day is exactly 40 days after Christmas, and Christians have a close tie with 40 days. It is the first holiday in the New Year. There is a Scottish poem that also plays a part in the tradition and history. This is how it goes:
"As the light grows longer
The cold grows stronger
If Candlemas be fair and bright
Winter will have another light
If Candlemas be cloud and Snow
Winter will be gone and not come again
A should on Candlemas day
Have half his corn and half his hay
On Candlemas day is throns hang a drop
You can be sure of a good pea crop."


Since the first week of February falls between the winter solstice and spring equinox, it is the perfect time for the groundhog's peek a boo with the clouds and shadows. The month of February has been significant for many cultures including Christians who celebrate Candlemas and Romans who celebrate the mid-season festival. Also the pagan Irish celebrate the arrival of spring around the same time.

What is so Special about it?

Most of us may find it a little strange that a day is dedicated to a groundhog, but those in Pennsylvania will not. The groundhog is an animal that hibernates for winter and when it leaves its burrow, it means that may be, just maybe spring is coming and the cold harsh winter is over. This tradition started with the Germans who migrated to Pennsylvania, come February they would look for groundhogs to check whether it has left its burrow or not, in the hopes of an early winter. Though this may be superstition, it is rooted in the fact that when you can see a shadow it means that winter is around because there are no clouds to insulate the earth.

Celebrating the Day

America can thank Clymer Freas and W. Smith for the celebrations that are seen these days on groundhog's day. These two, the former a newspaper editor and the latter an American congressman and newspaper publisher, popularized a festival in Punxsutawney in Pennsylvania (where the Germans settled). This festival was centered on a groundhog that would help in predicting the weather and if spring were to begin there would be celebration all around. These days it is a groundhog called Punxsutawney Phil that gets all the popularity on this day thanks to the movie called Groundhog Day. In Canada it is an albino groundhog called Wiarton Willy who has the same honor of predicting winter or spring.
Steppe Marmot