History of Groundhog Day

What is the history of Groundhog Day? Groundhog Day happens when the timid creature emerges from his den on February 2 to determine whether spring is near or if there is more winter weather in store. Tradition has it that, if the groundhog sees his shadow, there will be another six weeks of winter; if he doesn't see his shadow, a wet and warm spring is soon to come.

The enduring tradition of Groundhog Day in the United States has its origins in the ancient past, when early Europeans sought ways to predict unknown events, such as the weather. While in the depths of winter, people looked for signs that better weather would soon arrive, and they trusted the appearance of certain animals to indicate these natural events.

Early European Christians held Candlemas Day, a milestone day in the European calendar roughly marking the approaching end to winter. Priests would bless candles and pass them out. Songs and poems reveal that people observed the weather on Candlemas day. If the day was bright, winter would linger. If it was cloudy and wet, spring was just around the corner.

Early Germans long relied on the hedgehog and his shadow to make an appearance to signal the end of winter. When German settlers arrived in Pennsylvania to find no hedgehogs, they began to watch the groundhogs, and the observance continued into modern times.

Today, the largest and most famous Groundhog Day celebration is held in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, with a groundhog named Punxsutawney Phil. His predictions are usually covered by both local and national news broadcasts. However, Phil has competition, such as Sir Walter Wally in North Carolina, Holtsville Hal in New York and Buckeye Chuck in Ohio.

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