History of Groundhog Day

Where Groundhog Day Came From



Punxsutawney Phil

Layla Tippett, Contributor

     Groundhog Day is a celebration of a superstition that’s most popular in North America. This day takes place on February 2nd. According to an old story, on February 2nd, the groundhog wakes up after sleeping through the winter. If it sees its shadow on this day, there will be six more weeks of winter weather, and if it does not, spring will start early. If Groundhog Day is just a fun superstition, why did it become so popular in North America? 

     The superstition has roots from a Christian tradition of Candlemas, where a clergy would bless and distribute candles needed for winter. The candles represented how long and cold the winter would be. Different versions of Candlemas have the same concept in English, Scottish, and Latin lore. It has been preserved with simple statements by many writers. One being written by Reginald Scot in 1584.  He wrote, “If Maries purifieng daie, be cleare and bright with sunnie raie, the frost and cold shal be much more, After the feast than was before.”  

     But the main tradition comes from parts of Europe that were Celtic and later inhabited by Germanic speakers. Germans believed the weather were predicated by a badger rather than a groundhog, but the tradition remains otherwise identical. The badger is like the groundhog in being a small, hibernating, forest-dwelling mammal known for being very shy, and it was only natural for German-speaking immigrants in America to substitute the groundhog for the badger. German immigrants in America, also settled in Pennsylvania where groundhogs were very abundant. The Germans started to come to American in the 1880s and Groundhog Day first became popular in 1887, in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. This is where the addition of the Groundhog Punxsutawney Phil was born.  

     Today, the superstition of Groundhog Day still lives on, with Punxsutawney Phil. Many people in Pennsylvania celebrate Groundhog Day with food, games, speeches, and songs. You can also watch Punxsutawney Phil come out of his hole on FOX and NBC.