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Did You Know? Groundhog Day

Joann Wolwowicz

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Feb. 2 is the one day of the year when a little furry animal named Phil gets a whole lot of attention. Feb. 2, 1887 was the first day in history when Groundhog Day was celebrated in Gobbler’s Knob in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. Traditionally, if a groundhog comes out of his hole on this day and sees its shadow, there will be six more weeks of winter. No shadow will result in an early spring. When did this funny little tradition get started? Who started it? And more importantly, why was the groundhog chosen?

Believe it or not, Groundhog Day has its roots in the ancient Christian traditions of Candlemas Day, a day where the clergy would bless and distribute candles for winter. The candles were symbols of how long and cold the winter would be. Later on throughout history, the Germans selected an animal, originally a hedgehog, to predict the weather. Once the tradition arrived in America, the German settlers in Pennsylvania continued the tradition, this time using the areas plentiful groundhogs.

In 1887, there was a newspaper editor who belonged to a group of groundhog hunters from Punxsutawney. These men declared that Phil the Punxsutawney groundhog was the only true weather-forecasting groundhog, making him immediately famous. Ever since then, the future generations of the first Phil have been the most famous groundhog family. However, there are many other towns in America that have their own groundhogs that they look to on Feb. 2. Tens of thousands of people converge on Gobbler’s Knob in Punxsutawney each Feb. 2 to witness Phil’s prediction. There is always a three-day celebration featuring entertainment and activities.

Groundhogs, otherwise known as woodchucks, go into hibernation in late fall. In February, these animals emerge from their winter slumber surprisingly, not to predict the weather, but to look for a mate.

They come out of hibernation for good in March. So hopefully this year the unofficial, official winter forecaster will predict something warm coming for us in the near future. If not, you can expect some chilly weather heading our way, but with the winds we have been having, what else is new.

Happy Groundhog Day, everyone!

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Did You Know? Groundhog Day