Groundhog Day

Groundhog Day began in the 16th Century. In Germany, February 2nd was known as Badger Day. The date of February 2nd was known as Candlemas, a religious holiday. Like Groundhog Day in the U.S., if the Badger saw his shadow, it would retreat to their den for additional weeks of hibernation. In Germany, the period of hibernation was 4 weeks rather than 6 weeks as in the U.S.

When the Pennsylvania Dutch settled in America, they brought the tradition with them. Groundhogs were more available than badgers in Pennsylvania where they had settled. The reason for the change from 4 weeks to 6 weeks is not certain.

Punxsutawney Pennsylvania became the epicenter of the Groundhog Day ceremony. The first official Groundhog Day was in 1887. The local newspaper was the source of the promotion. The name Punxsutawney Phil didn’t become the name of the groundhog until 1961. He was named after Philip Duke of Edinburgh.

Currently, as many as 400,000 visitors come to Punxsutawney for the celebration. The crowd size grew tremendously with the cult classic movie Groundhog Day.

Virtually no one believes in Phil’s forecast. And that’s a good thing because his accuracy is less than 40%. A coin flip would be more accurate. In spite of the low accuracy, Phil remains a fan favorite. Today the ceremony is live-streamed. With all of the cameras present, it is unlikely that Phile can even see whether there is a shadow from the sun or from lighting.

While Groundhog Day has yet to become a federal holiday, it remains a popular day in popular culture.

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“Groundhogs only work one day per year.” – Unknown

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