In comparison to other holidays, Groundhog Day is rather strange. It’s not a day of gift-giving or relaxation from work for most people. It’s an entire day about a small animal that burrows through the earth and an old superstition. So let’s take the time to discover what Groundhog Day is really about and its history.
Groundhog day is primarily a North American holiday that takes place every year on February 2nd. The tradition of the holiday is to gather around and watch to see if a groundhog emerges from its burrow and sees its shadow because of the clear weather. If it does see its shadow then it will retreat to its den and there will be six more weeks of winter. If the groundhog doesn’t see its shadow then spring will arrive early this year. Although there is no scientific basis for this tradition it is still a fun event that many people take part in all over the country.
The tradition started with the German immigrants that originally came to the Americas. In Europe, they had a holiday called Candlemas which used a badger instead of a groundhog. When the German-speaking immigrants came to America and settled in Pennsylvania they adopted the groundhog as the new symbol for the holiday. Here is a video that has a brief overview of Groundhog Day.
The tradition is still going strong today. In Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania the largest Groundhog Day celebration takes place every year. For many decades the town has held a special ceremony on Groundhog Day where they bring out a special groundhog named Phil to see if there will be another six weeks of winter. Ever since the film, Groundhog Day, came out in 1993 the town has had a massive influx of visitors for the holiday averaging well over 10,000 each year. Here is a clip from the renowned film.
This year, 2021, will be the 135th celebration for the town. Phil and those around him will all be wearing masks due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Usually, the town receives thousands of visitors for the celebration but this year’s ceremony will be closed to the public. A live stream will be available to watch instead.