Groundhog Day Legends and Traditions


It’s official: Punxsutawney Phil did not see his shadow, so it’s an early spring for us this year! Phil left his burrow at Gobbler’s Knob in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania today, February 2, 2016 at 7:25 a.m. to make this yearly prediction for the remainder of winter as part of the official Groundhog Day ceremony.

Steeped in history, the origin of this annual tradition is associated with Candlemas Day 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 people, marking this time of year as an important winter milestone even then. Groundhog Day was derived not only from this custom, but also from a popular poem about Candlemas Day that was adapted for several European cultures during that time, including this English version:


If Candlemas be fair and bright,

Winter has another flight.

If Candlemas brings clouds and rain,

Winter will not come again.


Today, our celebration of Groundhog Day recognizes the legend of Candlemas Day, which German settlers in Pennsylvania began on February 2, 1887. These settlers brought the legend of Candlemas Day with them and found that the intellect and sensibility of the groundhog, which they found to be very plentiful in this area, made them the ideal animal to carry on this tradition.

Since then, Groundhog Day has morphed into what it is today with a full schedule of events to enjoy at the official festivities in Punxsutawney. This year celebrates 130 years of Groundhog Day tradition at Gobbler’s Knob and always begins with Phil coming out of his hole after a long winter nap to look for his shadow. If he sees it, it’s seen as an omen of six more weeks of winter. If he doesn’t see it, it’s taken as a sign of early spring.

So, thank you, Phil, for predicting more spring and less winter for 2016!


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