Whether or not the groundhog sees his shadow will always be the topic of conversation on Groundhog Day. Children and adults all over will either groan about 6 more weeks of winter or cheer over spring being on the horizon in most households. It seems to be a silly tradition that has taken on a life of its own and has quite the history behind it. Every February 2nd, the Groundhog emerges from his hole after a long winter sleep to look for his shadow. If it is sunny and he sees his shadow, there will be six more weeks of winter and he returns to his hole. If it is cloudy and he does not see his shadow, he will stay above ground as spring is on its way.
The first Groundhog Day was celebrated on February 2, 1887, in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. A local newspaper editor, Clymer Freas, convinced his friends-known as the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club, for their love of hunting groundhogs – to visit Gobbler’s Knob. After observing a groundhog emerge from his hole, they determined that seeing his shadow was a bad omen and meant there were at least six more weeks of winter. Some say that the tradition started in Europe as Candelmas Day and the Germans who settled in Pennsylvania in the 1700s brought the custom to America. Traditionally, observers would light candles on an early February day to brighten things up, and monitor the weather to see if spring was approaching. Early Europeans later began enlisting hedgehogs to help predict future weather conditions, as the animals typically came out of hibernation at the start of February, during Candlemas. Apparently Clymer and friends must have been from German heritage and just used this holiday with a twist- instead of a hedgehog- a groundhog.
Pennsylvania’s Punxsutawney Phil is the most well-known, but more than a dozen states celebrate with their own groundhogs, such as Georgia’s Gen. Beauregard Lee and Buckeye Chuck in Ohio. Punxsutawney Phil – His full name is “Punxsutawney Phil, Seer of Seers, Sage of Sages, Prognosticator of Prognosticators, and Weather Prophet Extraordinary.” Phil has met the President, been on the Opera Winfrey show, and has even had a movie made after him called “Groundhog Day” staring Bill Murray.
Regardless if Phil gave you what you were hoping for- it is still fun for all ages to feel like an animal really can predict the weather. Well, for this year at least- keep the sleds out and don’t put those winter clothes away just yet. Happy Groundhog Day!