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Happy Groundhog Day

Happy Groundhog Day everyone! Here is a little bit of history about this day – which I didn’t know and found rather interesting.

According to folklore, if it is cloudy when a groundhog emerges from its burrow on this day then spring will come early. If it is sunny, the groundhog will supposedly see its shadow and retreat back into its burrow, and the winter weather will continue for six more weeks.

An early American reference to Groundhog Day can be found in a diary entry, dated February 4, 1841, of Berks County, Pennsylvania, storekeeper James Morris:

Last Tuesday, the 2nd, was Candlemas day, the day on which, according to the Germans, the Groundhog peeps out of his winter quarters and if he sees his shadow he pops back for another six weeks nap, but if the day be cloudy he remains out, as the weather is to be moderate.

(NOTE: “Candlemas” day sounds like “Festivus”… )

In Scotland the tradition may also derive from an English poem:

As the light grows longer
The cold grows stronger
If Candlemas be fair and bright
Winter will have another flight
If Candlemas be cloud and rain
Winter will be gone and not come again
A farmer should on Candlemas day
Have half his corn and half his hay
On Candlemas day if thorns hang a drop
You can be sure of a good pea crop

Alternative origin theories

In western countries in the Northern Hemisphere the official first day of spring is almost seven weeks (46–48 days) after Groundhog Day, on March 20 or March 21. The custom could have been a folk embodiment of the confusion created by the collision of two calendrical systems. Some ancient traditions marked the change of season at cross-quarter days such as Imbolc when daylight first makes significant progress against the night. Other traditions held that spring did not begin until the length of daylight overtook night at the Vernal Equinox. So an arbiter, the proundhog/hedgehog, was incorporated as a yearly custom to settle the two traditions. Sometimes spring begins at Imbolc, and sometimes winter lasts 6 more weeks until the equinox.

The largest Groundhog Day celebration is held in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. Groundhog Day, already a widely recognized and popular tradition, received widespread attention as a result of the eponymous 1993 film Groundhog Day, which was set in Punxsutawney and portrayed Punxsutawney Phil.

A scene from Groundhog Day with Bill Murray:


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6 Comments »

  1. I SWEAR you wrote this post yesterday…
    Actually, for you Pagans out there Happy Imbolc! for you Catholics and Church of England folfkHappy St Brigid’s Day! (thanks for usurping that along with Halloween and Christmas by the way. Oh and every other holiday).
    I SWEAR I wrote this yesterday…

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