What really is Groundhog Day?

Is this a day where we celebrate groundhogs or predict the weather?

One of the Inner Circle holding up Punxsutawney Phil.

One of the Inner Circle holding up Punxsutawney Phil.

The United States celebrates many random holidays including National Talk Like a Pirate Day, National Bagel Day, and Groundhog Day. Well, readers, Groundhog Day is this coming Sunday, 2 February 2020. Groundhog Day is the day in between the winter solstice and the spring equinox. On this day, people use a groundhog’s shadow to predict whether we will have 6 more weeks of winter. 

Where did Groundhog Day come from? The idea of Groundhog Day has been around for a very long time. The holiday originated from a Christian holiday Candlemas. On this holy day, Christians believed that if it was clear and sunny then there would be 40 more days of winter. The Germans took this idea and developed their own legend and said that if a badger or small animal saw their shadow then the cold would stay for a couple more weeks. 

When was the first Groundhog Day? The first Groundhog Day was in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania on February 2, 1887. A local newspaper editor, Clymas Freas, convinced the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club to believe in the idea of Groundhog Day. So in 1887, the club went to a place called Gobbler’s Knob where their groundhog saw his shadow.

What happens on Groundhog Day? Today, the ritual of going to a groundhog’s burrow and waiting for him to predict the weather is done by a group called the Inner Circle. The Inner Circle is a group of dignitaries from Punxsutawney who get the honor of conducting the holiday. They all wear traditional dress, with top hats included, and speak in Pennsylvania Dutch Dialect during the ceremony. If the groundhog sees his shadow and darts back into his home then it is predicted that we will have 6 more weeks of winter. The opposite also applies, if the groundhog does not see his shadow then this means that spring is near. The groundhog that is used for the ceremony is Punxsutawney Phil. The name Punxsutawney Phil has been used for every groundhog that has ever participated in the ceremony of this holiday. He is supposed to be a supercentenarian, which means he is the same animal that has been forecasting since 1887.


2020 Predictions:

Forecasters are currently unsure of whether Phil will see his shadow or not. They are predicting below-freezing temperatures at the beginning of the week, and then by the end of the week the temperature is moving up to the mid-40s. Some people are guessing the weather to be cloudy due to the cold and are thinking that Phil will not see his shadow. This will mean spring might be coming early for the second year in a row.

Update:  On Groundhog Day 2020, Punxsutawney Phil could not find his shadow. And as the legend goes, this means we’re in for an early spring .