I brought up groundhogs day the other day in my post and mentioned that one of our weather predicting rodents had passed away only a couple days before the celebration. It came to my attention then that not everyone recognizes this day and I set out to learn just why this day is even a thing. I mean can a rodent really predict winter and why, how, did this become a thing. So I did a little research.
Groundhogs Day is recognized in Canada and the United states. It is believed that the groundhog can predict the weather dependent on if it see’s it’s shadow when it emerges from it’s borrow in spring. Where did the tradition of Groundhogs day originate and how long have people been recognizing this day and celebrating the groundhog, also why the groundhog?
The first mentions of a celebration of the coming of spring comes from paganism, and is known as Imbolc. Imbolc may translate to mean the pregnancy of ews, or ews milk and the nursing of their young depending on which culture and location your in. Though interpretation and even celebration may be slightly different they all mark the coming of spring and animal worship. Early February marks halfway between the shortest day and the spring equinox. During the middle ages a Gaelic festival was held, one of the four seasonal festivals observed in Ireland and Scotland at the time. Also worshiping Goddess Brighid who is also known as Saint Brighid after Ireland converted to Christianity. Candlemass observed by Christians is observed February 2nd, again marking the halfway point between winter solstice and spring equinox. Candlemass focuses on Jesus and his life shortly after birth. It is believed that after giving birth the purification of a woman’s body takes 40 days. Marking Feb 2 40 days after his birth, Candlemass. In Germany a similar celebration took place at this time. In early 1840’s German immigrants in Pennsylvania introduced the tradition of weather predicting hedgehogs. The groundhog was adopted for this tradition because of the lack of hedgehogs in this region.
The first Groundhogs day was celebrated in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania on February 2nd 1887. It was reported by a newspaper editor who also was a member of a groundhog hunting club known as Punxsutawney Groundhog Club that “Phil the Punxsutawney Groundhog was America’s official weather reporting rodent. Phil’s rise to fame sparked an interest across the country and even to Canada. Towns all over North America now have their own local groundhogs to help predict the coming of spring. It became popular in Canada in 1956 with Wiarton Willie and the festival in Wiarton, Ontario. There are far more official weather predicting groundhogs across both nations and though Punxsutawny Phil may be the most famous, the observed holiday is becoming more and more popular in other cities and with more groundhogs.
The Groundhog Marmota Monax, also known as a woodchucks are of the Monax family. The groundhog is a hibernating, hole digging mammal. During the summer Groundhogs will spend most of the time fattening themselves up for the winter by eating the bark from trees, fruits, vegetables, grass and many plants. In early spring usually halfway between the the winter solstice and the spring equinox the groundhog may emerge from it’s borrow. When the groundhog emerges from it’s borrow it is actually looking for signs of food and a mate. Since there are many predators for the groundhog and perhaps a lack of food during this time period they may go back into their borrow and wait until an ideal time to emerge. If the groundhog see’s his shadow he may go back into his borrow, if he does not he may come out in search of food. This activity is what sparks the interest of a weather predicting rodent.
There are so many ways to celebrate this holiday and this tradition anywhere from leaving clothes out for the goddess Brighid to bless, to leaving Christmas decorations up, to a 3 day festival in Pennsylvania, to candle blessing, and even a Bill Murry Comedy “Groundhogs Day”. Essentially we are all celebrating the same thing the halfway point between winter and spring. Celebrate the way you want, whatever brings you the most happiness. I celebrated by doing all this research just for you guys! I know I’m a bit late to post this up but this lady had no idea what she was getting into when she started this project. I hope you enjoy this as much as I did and I know I learned a lot more than just rodents today. It’ll be interesting to see if the groundhogs predictions are accurate this year.
2016 Pennsylvania’s Punxsutawney Phil did not see his shadow predicting an early spring
2016 Ontario’s Wiarton Willie saw his shadow and is predicting 6 more weeks of winter
The groundhogs weather predictions are often wrong