The history of Groundhog Day

Punxsutawney Phil is arguably the most famous groundhog around the world. On February 2, Groundhog Day, crowds wait anxiously for Phil to emerge from his burrow. If he sees his shadow, there will be six more weeks of winter. If he doesn’t see his shadow, an early spring can be expected.

Groundhog Day’s roots come from the ancient Christian tradition of Candlemas Day, when clergy would bless and distribute candles that represented how long and cold the winter would be. Germans expanded on the tradition by selecting the hedgehog to predict the weather, bringing the tradition with them to America and trading the hedgehog for a groundhog.

The first Groundhog Day took place on February 2, 1887 at Gobbler’s Knob in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. The idea is credited to a newspaper editor who belonged to a group of groundhog hunters from Punxsutawney called the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club. He declared Phil as America’s only true weather-forecasting groundhog, but towns across North America now have their own weather predicting groundhogs, such as Birmingham Bill in State Island and Shubenacadie Sam in Canada. In Vermillion, Ohio, a woolly bear caterpillar provides weather predictions.

Today, local Punxsutawney dignitaries, known as the Inner Circle, preside over the ceremony wearing top hats and speaking in the Pennsylvania Dutch dialect. They supposedly speak to Phil in “Groundhogese.” Tens of thousands of people attend the event each year, with even more watching the proceedings on television and via live stream.

This year, Punxsutawney Phil did not see his shadow, indicating an early spring is on the way with the Groundhog Club declaring “There is no shadow to be cast! An early spring is my forecast!” For those looking forward to warmer weather, Phil isn’t the only groundhog predicting spring arrives early. Canada’s Shubenacadie Sam, Staten Island’s Chuck, and Georgia’s General Beau Lee all concur with Phil.

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Article written by Sarah Wyland

Sarah Wyland
Sarah never gets in trouble for being on Facebook and Instagram at work, because its her job. As social media manager, she gets to tell the stories of travelers, teachers, and interesting places. Other titles she enjoys include dog mom to Knox, barre instructor, Crossfit athlete, avid reader, and world traveler.