Groundhog Day is celebrated on February 2 every year in the United States and Canada. The celebration for the Groundhog Day is based on the belief that on the 2nd day of February, most of the groundhogs or also known as woodchucks will come out from their respective holes in order to look for their shadows. This tradition has its roots in the Pennsylvania German community.
According to the folklore, if the groundhog doesn’t see its shadow (on a cloudy day) then spring time will come early. However, if the groundhog does see its shadow (on a sunny day), the groundhog will retreat into its burrow for a nap as 6 more weeks of winter are coming.
The weather prognostication (or prediction) is a sign of the integral feature of the tradition of Groundhog Day. The origin of this prediction owes to the European tradition which is also known as Candlemas. The sunny Candlemas day will lead the winter to last for about six weeks which is also associated with the commemoration of the Virgin Mary.
The candles that are being used for sacred purposes are being blessed during this day. The Candlemas traditions are also associated with a variety of folklore and this kind of belief had been brought to America during the 18th century when the German settlers adopted groundhogs as their actual weather predictors (in Europe they may have still used sacred bears or badgers).
Groundhog Day was also introduced into North America in the late 1800’s with the help of Clymer Freas who was a newspaper editor at the Punxsutawney Spirit and W. Smith who was a newspaper publisher & congressman. They popularized and organized an annual festival in the Pennsylvania which is a state that is populated by most German settlers.
The annual festival featured Punxsutawney Phil who foretells how long the winter season will last. During this event, food is served, skits are performed and speeches are made in German (English is verboten).
The popular movie entitled Groundhog Day starring Bill Murray played a vital role in commercializing the schedules of events in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. According to locals, Punxsutawney Phil is the most intelligent groundhog that performs a fearless forecast on the national event in media.
According to the results, 90-percent of the time Punxsutawney Phil sees his shadow. Punxsutawney Phil started to conduct predictions in 1887 and since has become one of the American institutions (of course since then several Phils have filled in).
Aside from Pennsylvania, there are also other states that vigorously celebrate Groundhog Day including Tennessee, Arkansas, Nebraska, Georgia and California. Groundhog Day is also popular in Canada wherein Wiarton Willy (from Wiarton, Ontario) is the popular white groundhog that they turn to in order to predict the length of every winter season.
Rumor Has It …
… that Punxsutawney Phil actually does not know how much wood could a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood, as he should.