A Glimpse at Groundhog Day's Quirky Tradition


| LAST UPDATE 02/06/2022

By Stanley Wickens
groundhog day 2022 history
Jeff Swensen / Stringer via Getty Images

Groundhog Day: the unofficial way America is told whether to bring out those springtime seeds or keep them stored for six more weeks until the snow stops falling. Every year, millions of Americans rely on a furry little rodent in Pennsylvania to inform them of the weather forecast for the month of February. This has us wondering how this tradition - which has had us ditching our local forecasters since 1886 - even came to be...

Historians tell us that the origin of Groundhog Day can be traced back to Candlemas Day, a Christian tradition commemorating the purification of the Virgin Mary 40 days after the birth of her son. The occasion then also became a day on which people would prognosticate the coming of spring by checking for sunny or cloudy skies. Symbolizing the triumph of light over darkness (spring over winter), European clergymen would give out blessed candles that would show how long the winter was expected to continue. The holiday then brought about several versions across the European continent of the tradition we now call Groundhog Day. The French turned to bears for the February weather forecast, while Germans looked to hedgehogs.

groundhog day winter prediction
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Centuries later, German settlers made their way to America, settling mainly in Pennsylvania. But they weren't about to give up their longtime tradition of consulting woodland creatures about the arrival of spring! The practice continued, and they eventually replaced the hedgehog with a groundhog, due to the scarcity of hedgehogs in the region. Hence the birth of 'Punxsutawney Phil,' the famous groundhog of Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania who has made annual predictions of the coming of spring since the late 1800s. Every year, Americans across the nation await the message from Phil in 'Groundhogese,' which he gives to the president of the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club. If Phil reveals that he has seen his shadow on the 2nd of February, then six more weeks of winter are to be expected; if not, then spring is believed to be around the corner!

But Phil hasn't exactly been foolproof over the years. In fact, over the past decade, his predictions have only been accurate 40% of the time! This year, Phil announced that he did see his shadow on February 2, 2022, meaning that Americans who trust his forecasting shouldn't hurry to put away their boots and snow shovels just yet! As to whether Phil's prediction is correct, we guess only time will tell...

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