Saturday, February 2, 2019 is Groundhog Day (also known as Candlemas Day), a fun holiday that has its roots in the Pennsylvania “Dutch” (German) tradition. According to folklore, if it is cloudy when the groundhog emerges from its burrow on this day (no shadow) then spring will come early; if it is sunny, the groundhog will see its shadow and retreat back into its burrow, and winter will persist for the remaining six weeks.
Everyone will no doubt be waiting with bated breath to see what Punxsutawney Phil, North America’s most famous groundhog from Pennsylvania, predicts for the remainder of the winter.
The History of Groundhog Day
The date of the celebration coincides with the medieval feast of Candlemas, and its pre-Christian predecessor, Imbolc, a day that is also rich in folklore. An old Scottish prophecy foretells that sunny weather on Candlemas means a long winter. The tradition is recounted in this old Scottish 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 snow
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.
Punxsutawney Phil is the focal point of the oldest and largest annual Groundhog Day celebration, held in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, every year since 1886. Members of Phil’s “Inner Circle” claim that he is now 130 years old, thanks to a magical life-extending serum they feed him each year—and that his predictions are 100 percent accurate.
Other Groundhog Forecasters
Phil may be the most famous, but there are a number of other groundhogs that hold court at celebrations across North America, they include:
Wiarton Willie in Wiarton, Ontario, Canada
Staten Island Chuck in New York City
General Beauregard Lee in Atlanta, Georgia
Malverne Mel and Melissa in Malverne, New York
Brandon Bob in Brandon, Manitoba, Canada
Balzac Billy in Balzac, Alberta, Canada
Shubenacadie Sam in Shubenacadie, Nova Scotia, Canada
Gary the Groundhog in Kleinburg, Ontario, Canada
Spanish Joe in Spanish, Ontario, Canada
Sir Walter Wally in Raleigh, N.C.,
Pardon Me Pete in Tampa, Florida
Jimmy the Groundhog in Sun Prairie, Wisconsin
Octoraro Orphie in Quarryville, Pennsylvania
Dunkirk Dave in Dunkirk, New York
Buckeye Chuck in Ohio
Regardless . . .
of what Phil or any of the other forecasters do tomorrow, none of us can change what is going to come in the next few weeks. So, bundle up and stay warm!