Each year on February 2, better known as Groundhog Day, officials head out to Gobbler’s Knob in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania to seek out the burrow of Punxsutawney Phil, of course, and his shadow. As the legend goes, if Phil emerges from his burrow and does not see his shadow, spring is on the way. If he does see his shadow, however, we can anticipate six more weeks of winter.
This annual tradition has been taking place for more than a century. In fact, Groundhog Day is steeped in history. But before we dive into the lore of Groundhog Day, let’s learn a little about its original European roots.
The origin of Groundhog Day is associated with Candlemas Day, which stems from the days of early Christians in Europe. In those times, it was custom to have the clergy bless candles and distribute them to the townspeople during winter.
Groundhog Day was derived not only from this custom, but also from a popular poem about Candlemas Day. Here’s the English version:
If Candlemas be fair and bright,
Winter has another flight.
If Candlemas brings clouds and rain,
Winter will not come again.
The First Groundhog Day
The first Groundhog Day began with German settlers in Pennsylvania on February 2, 1887 to commemorate the legend of Candlemas Day. Known for its intellect and sensibility, the groundhog became the perfect candidate to carry on their beloved tradition. The poem’s references to sunlight and clouds transformed into the concept of the groundhog’s shadow.
Since then, Groundhog Day has morphed into its modern form. Today it’s a nationally celebrated holiday with a full schedule of events at the official festival in Punxsutawney.
It’s been celebrated for over 130 years at Gobbler’s Knob in eastern Pennsylvania. Every year, the holiday begins with Phil coming out of his den after a long winter nap to look for his shadow. If he sees it, it’s an omen of six more weeks of winter. If he doesn’t see it, it’s taken as a sign of early spring.
So here’s to Phil and this age-old tradition. May springtime come soon for everyone!
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