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Groundhog Day: History and Facts

February 2, 2017

Have you ever wondered why so many people around the world ask furry rodents about the weather? Read on to find out more about the history of the Groundhog Day’s and also about interesting facts and traditions of this extraordinary holiday.

• February 2nd is a very important day as far as ancient traditions are concerned. This day falls between the spring equinox and the winter solstice. On 2nd of February the Celts celebrated Imbolc – festival organized by pagans to mark the commencement of spring. Centuries later when Christianity had become dominant and paganism had  ceased away, Imbolc turned into Candlemas. The new version of Imbolic commemorates the presentation of Jesus at the temple in Jerusalem. Some Christians believe that if the weather is sunny on the Candlemas, it means that the following 40 days will be cold and snowy. Germans, however, have their own version of this legend. They were pronouncing the sunny day only in case when badgers saw their shadows. Following the immigration of Germans to Pennsylvania which occurred during the 18th and 19th centuries, they carried this peculiar tradition with them. They only modification of this tradition was changing the annual forecaster from badger to native groundhog.

Groundhog day

• Punxsutawney in Pennsylvania was the place for the 1st official celebration of the Groundhog Day. It happened in 1887, on February 2nd, and it was the idea of Clymer Freas who was the local newspaper editor. He sold his idea to Punxsutawney Groundhog Club, which was represented by a group of groundhog hunters and businesspeople. They have chosen a site named the Gobbler’s Knob for the annual celebration of the Groundhog Day. It is where the groundhog was making forecasts annually.

• Today the Groundhog Day is being curated by a group of local grandees known as the Inner Circle. The members of this clique are conducting the official proceeding in Dutch dialect and are wearing top hats. Tens of thousands of visitors gather in Punxsutawney on the 2nd of February to attend the Groundhog Day event and its festivities. The celebration of this day became famous due to the “Groundhog Day” movie, which came out in 1993.

• While the Groundhog Day is a great tradition, we shouldn’t trade in our meteorologists for groundhogs because they often make mistakes in their forecasts. For instance, last year the groundhog didn’t see his shadow whereas spring arrived as usual.

• The analog of the Groundhog Day is celebrated in Vermillion, Ohio, where people gather to see the color of the wooly bear caterpillar. If the color of the insects is more orange than black, it means that the upcoming winter will be mild. This tradition is called a Wollybear Festival. It gathers more than 100,000 of visitors and is being held every fall since 1972.

• Groundhogs live on average for 10 years, but the Punxsutawney Phil who makes the forecast in Pennsylvania is said to be more than 125 years old. According to the legend, this longevity is bestowed on him because he gets the magical punch every summer.


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