Saturday, February 2, 2013

#GroundhogDay: It's Not Just A Movie

Jour de la marmotte by Gilles Gonthier

February 2

Groundhog Day

Happy Groundhog Day. Groundhog Day is celebrated on the second day of February every year. According to legend Punxsutawney Phil, a groundhog from Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, can accurately predict whether or not winter will end soon just by coming out of his burrow. If he sees his shadow the there will be six more weeks of winter. If not, then there will be an early spring. Every year thousands of people watch at Gobbler's Knob as the Punxsutawney Groundhog Day Club ask the forecasting groundhog to emerge from his burrow. After he emerges and looks around Punxsutawney Phil speaks to the club president in the Groundhogese language, a language only the club president knows how to translate. The club president then delivers the forecast to everyone. Punxsutawney Phil has seen his shadow nine times out of ten. He's not the only groundhog to forecast the weather but he is the most accurate. His predictions have been accurate between 75-90% of the time. 

The Truth Behind The Legend
Groundhog Day is an American holiday that has its roots in southeastern and central Pennsylvania. It was first conceived by Pennsylvania settlers during the 18th century. The earliest written record of Groundhog Day occurs a diary entry dated February 4, 1841 written by James Morris, a Burks County, Pennsylvania shopkeeper. 

Last Tuesday, the 2nd, was Candlemas day, the day on which, according to the Germans, the Groundhog peeps out of his winter quarters and if he sees his shadow he pops back for another six weeks nap, but if the day be cloudy he remains out, as the weather is to be moderate.

The connection between Groundhog Day and Candlemas is not something to be overlooked when trying to determine the source of this American folklore. Candlemas is always celebrated on February 2. Not to be confused with Christmas, Candlemas is the day to honor the early life of Jesus Christ. According to the bible, Mary and Joseph had presented Jesus to the temple forty days after his birth. Today is forty days after Christmas. Christians throughout the time all over the world have celebrated the presentation of the baby Jesus at the temple in a variety of ways. 

Other than sharing the same date, Candlemas and Groundhog Day are alike in that they both have weather lore attached to them. According to Candlemas weather lore, a prediction of a long winter or short spring can accurately be made depending on how the weather is on that day. 

If Candlemas be fair and bright,
Winter will take another flight;
If chance to fall a shower of rain,
Winter will not come again.

You can learn more about Groundhog Day history and the lore surrounding it at

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