Happy Groundhog Day

Happy Groundhog Day

I remember being a little kid in grade school on Feb. 2 discussing whether or not “Phil” was going to see his shadow. Groundhog Day seemed so important! Our class debated, “Are we going to have six more weeks of winter?” Now, years later, I am sort of perplexed by the strange tradition. Who ever thought a groundhog could predict the future? So, I decided to take a look into the history of National Groundhog Day.

So, what is Groundhog Day? The day is celebrated on Feb. 2 each year. After weeks of hibernation in Punxsutawney, Pa., a groundhog by the name of Punxsutawney Phil emerges from his hole. Waiting for him are thousands of people, cameras and guys dressed in strange old-fashioned attire. The men known as the “Inner Circle” wear top hats and preside over the Groundhog Day ceremonies, speaking in Pennsylvania Dutch dialect. Once the festivities begin, the legend is if Phil sees his shadow, we will see six more weeks of winter. If he does not see his shadow, Phil remains outside his hole to celebrate that spring is coming soon!

The day traces back to Christian roots. Feb. 2 was celebrated as Candlemas. Many Christians believed if Candlemas Day was sunny, there would be another 40 days of wintry weather. Germans of the time period took it a step further, believing the day was considered sunny if badgers saw their own shadows. Once Germans migrated to Pennsylvania, Candlemas featured a similar tradition to today, seeing if groundhogs would stay outside or see their shadow and head back into hibernation for a few more weeks. References to this tradition in the United States actually date back to as early as 1841!

A few decades later, in 1887, a newspaperman developed the idea of the first official Groundhog Day in Punxsutawney. Groundhog hunters known as The Punxsutawney Groundhog Club went to Gobbler’s Knob to determine if the groundhog would see his shadow. The day is very special to Pennsylvanians and remains a nationally recognized celebration.

Personally, I was always skeptical of the accuracy of the whole thing. I remember thinking to myself, wouldn’t all the camera flashes make the groundhog see his shadow? Funnily enough, the National Centers for Environmental Information estimate Phil is only right about 40 percent of the time on average.

So, what do you think? Will Punxsutawney Phil see his shadow this year? More importantly, are we going to have six more weeks of winter? I guess we will find out.

Happy Groundhog Day! Learn more about the history of this day.