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Happy Groundhog Day!

February 2, 2022

Groundhog Day was first officially celebrated on this day in 1887 in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. Members of the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club still gather in Gobbler’s Knob to lift Phil high in the air and oversee the proceedings in Pennsylvania Dutch.

So, where did this weird American tradition come from? As indicated by the preferred language of the Groundhog Club, the day originated with German settlers who came to Pennsylvania in the 18th and 19th centuries. In early Christianity, the halfway point between the winter and spring solstices was marked with a blessing of candles (Candlemas).

The weather on that day supposedly foretold the weather of the coming weeks. (As we know, a shadow indicates six more weeks of winter weather, and no shadow, an early spring.)

Germans adopted the feast day, proclaiming it sunny only when small animals (such as hedgehogs and badgers) had shadows. German-Americans, in turn, chose the groundhog as an indicator of the coming weather.

So how accurate is Phil? According to NOAA, not very. Since he began predicting the weather in the 1880s, Phil has been right nearly 40% of the time – as of 2023, he has only predicted 20 early springs and 107 ongoing winters.

 

Maryland Marmot, Woodchuck, Groundhog, John James Audubon, 1851

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February 2, 2022
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