Groundhog Day is celebrated in the United States and Canada on February 2nd of each year. Groundhog Day is a day of wonder and curiosity for many people based on the activities of a groundhog arising out of its winter slumber to check for his shadow.
In the United States, the most important groundhog is Punxsutawney Phil who lives in a burrow called Gobbler’s Knob near Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. In Canada, an albino groundhog named Wiarton Willie annually climbs out of his hole to predict the future forecast.
In times of the past, Europeans held a celebration called Candlemas Day on February 2nd of each year. Candlemas Day was originally a Christian celebration to observe Jesus’ first appearance in the temple and the purification of Blessed Mary, mother of Jesus. On this day, people would bring their candles to a place outside of the church and the candles would be blessed. The people would then carry the candles in a procession to the church to simulate Jesus’ appearance in the temple.
During these early times, people believed that if Candlemas Day was sunny, then winter would last for six more weeks and if Candlemas Day was cloudy or overcast, winter would soon be over. Eventually, the German people also began watching hedgehogs to predict the future spring forecast. If the hedgehog saw its shadow, then there would be six more weeks of winter and if the hedgehog did not see its shadow, it would remain outside signifying an early spring season. In addition, the bear and badger were other animals watched during this time.
When the Germans began to immigrate to the United States, the German people continued to celebrate Candlemas Day on February 2nd but they came across a problem. As many German people chose to reside in Pennsylvania, hedgehogs were not in abundance in this state. However, groundhogs were everywhere. The German people chose to use the groundhog in place of the hedgehog for the determination of future weather forecasts.
The first recorded Groundhog Day was February 2nd, 1886 in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. A local newspaper, The Punxsutawney Spirit, is credited with printing the news of the first observance in 1886… ‘Today is groundhog day, and up to the time of going to press the beast has not seen his shadow.”
The groundhog used in the weather prediction celebration was called Punxsutawney Phil and resided near Punxsutawney in a knoll or burrow called Gobbler’s Knob. The first recorded annual travel to Gobbler’s Knob for Groundhog Day occurred on February 2nd, 1887. Punxsutawney Phil still resides at Gobbler’s Knob.
Groundhogs are mammals and are members of the squirrel family. Groundhogs actually hibernate during the winter period by bringing their body temperature down to freezing. This creates a coma type of existence where body functions (breathing, flowing blood, etc.) barely exists. In the spring, groundhog babies are born in liters of approximately 4 to 8 babies. The babies live with the mother for approximately two months and are then ready to challenge the world. The length of a groundhog is approximate 20 inches and the weight is approximately 15 pounds. The diet of a groundhog is vegetarian eating mainly grasses, plants and fruit.
The Groundhog Club began in the late 1800’s. The Club’s Inner Circle is responsible for all activities pertaining to Groundhog Day and Punxsutawney Phil. These include events which occur prior to Groundhog Day, events occurring on Groundhog Day, and Groundhog Day events which occur throughout the year. The most important job of the Club’s Inner Circle is caring for Punxsutawney Phil every day of the year.
When is Groundhog Day?
Groundhog Day is not a floating holiday and always falls on February 2 of each year.