Groundhog Day is celebrated in the United States and Canada on February 2nd of each year. Groundhog Day is a day of wonder and curiosity for many people based on the activities of a groundhog arising out of its winter slumber to check for his shadow.
In the United States, the most important groundhog is Punxsutawney Phil who lives in a burrow called Gobbler’s Knob near Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. In Canada, an albino groundhog named Wiarton Willie annually climbs out of his hole to predict the future forecast.
In times of the past, Europeans held a celebration called Candlemas Day on February 2nd of each year. Candlemas Day was originally a Christian celebration to observe Jesus’ first appearance in the temple and the purification of Blessed Mary, mother of Jesus. On this day, people would bring their candles to a place outside of the church and the candles would be blessed. The people would then carry the candles in a procession to the church to simulate Jesus’ appearance in the temple.
During these early times, people believed that if Candlemas Day was sunny, then winter would last for six more weeks and if Candlemas Day was cloudy or overcast, winter would soon be over. Eventually, the German people also began watching hedgehogs to predict the future spring forecast. If the hedgehog saw its shadow, then there would be six more weeks of winter and if the hedgehog did not see its shadow, it would remain outside signifying an early spring season. In addition, the bear and badger were other animals watched during this time.
When the Germans began to immigrate to the United States, the German people continued to celebrate Candlemas Day on February 2nd but they came across a problem. As many German people chose to reside in Pennsylvania, hedgehogs were not in abundance in this state. However, groundhogs were everywhere. The German people chose to use the groundhog in place of the hedgehog for the determination of future weather forecasts.
The first recorded Groundhog Day was February 2nd, 1886 in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. A local newspaper, The Punxsutawney Spirit, is credited with printing the news of the first observance in 1886… ‘Today is groundhog day, and up to the time of going to press the beast has not seen his shadow.”
The groundhog used in the weather prediction celebration was called Punxsutawney Phil and resided near Punxsutawney in a knoll or burrow called Gobbler’s Knob. The first recorded annual travel to Gobbler’s Knob for Groundhog Day occurred on February 2nd, 1887. Punxsutawney Phil still resides at Gobbler’s Knob.