Skip to main content

The Origins of Groundhog Day


Groundhog Day is celebrated tomorrow, February 2, and the United States and Canada. The most notable groundhog is from Punxsutawney Pennsylvania, aptly named Punxsutawney Phil. They've been celebrating Groundhog Day each year since 1886 and have attracted as many as 40,000 visitors.

But you may be wondering how Groundhog Day got started.

The truth is we don't know. Groundhog Day or Candlemas Day was celebrated by the Pennsylvania Germans in southeastern and central Pennsylvania dating back to the 1700s.

The first known reference was dated February 4, 1841 by a Berks County storekeeper:
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.
Another early reference comes from an early English poem that speaks of Candlemas Day, that speaks of clouds and rain indicating an early spring, but makes no mention of a groundhog.

In a third theory, Groundhog Day could be as much as 1000 years old. The modern calendar has the first day of spring on March 20 or 21st, approximately 7 weeks after Groundhog Day. However, the Julian calendar showed the spring equinox on March 16, exactly 6 weeks after February 2. It's possible that predicting spring (a critical time in agricultural society) became a contentious argument. Perhaps a groundhog or a hedgehog was agreed upon as an arbiter. Early cultures often recognized the instincts of animals as superior to their own.

So, Groundhog Day is several hundred years old, or maybe several thousand.

So why Punxsutawney Phil? Frankly, it was good marketing. A little tiny town in Western Pennsylvania wasn't going to attract visitors very often, and chose this unusual celebration to develop a strong tourism business.

Punxsutawney Phil
But Phil isn't the only groundhog! There are dozens across the US and Canada. Wikipedia has a ridiculous list if you're interested, but here are the names of a few.

French Creek Freddie is from West Virginia. Tumbleweed is from Illinois. Balzac Billy is from Alberta Canada. There is Chuckles in Connecticut and Poor Richard from York, Pennsylvania. Mountain Maryland Murray from, well, Maryland. Buckeye Chuck from Ohio. Queen Charlotte of North Carolina. Even New York City has Staten Island Chuck.

Well, now you know more than you ever expected to know about Groundhog Day.

Comments

  1. Anonymous8:24:00 PM

    Great update on important history that we should all know about. Thanks Wheelie!

    ReplyDelete

Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

People who died on the toilet (real people and fictional characters)

Famous people who died on the toilet. Here is an extensive list of real people who died on the throne. Elvis Presley died of an overdose, falling off the toilet into a pile of his own vomit. Judy Garland died of an overdose discovered slumped over her toilet. King George II of Britain suffered a heart attack while sitting on the toilet. Wenceslaus III of Bohemia assassinated with a spear while he sat on the toilet. Godfrey IV, Duke of Lower Lorraine, was attacked by an assassin while sitting on the toilet. He died a week after the attack. Japanese warlord Uesugi Kenshin was assassinated with a spear while sitting on the toilet. British author Evelyn Waugh, who coincidently also married a woman named Evelyn, died on his toilet. Some believe he drowned in it, however his official cause of death was heart failure. Famed architect Louis Kahn suffered a heart attack and died on the toilet in New York City’s Penn station. One of the early Christian preachers, Arius, had been condemned as a…

More Realistic Anniversary Gift Traditions

New Anniversary Gifts Destined to become Traditional My wife and I have been married for 20 years today. Over the past 20 years I made efforts each year to observe the traditional anniversary gifts. Some of them are certainly more difficult than others, and many of them are hard to find gift worthy in the modern age.
Therefore, I offer you a modern take on anniversary gifts. How many of these will become traditional?
First Anniversary – The Ramen Noodle anniversary. Let’s face it, you blew $30,000 on the wedding, and your student loan debt hasn’t gone anywhere. Share a Cup O’ Noodles. Eat with chopsticks on the floor because you can’t yet afford a couch.
Second Anniversary – The Puppy Anniversary. She’s been looking at you with those eyes that say she wants to start a family, but you just bought a new couch. Get her a puppy instead.
Third Anniversary – The Kinky Lingerie Anniversary. Leather, silk or lace can re-fire the engines after a year of flannel pajamas that smell like the puppy,…

How United Airlines Should Have Handled the Situation

United Airlines is under fire for a viral video that shows them removing a passenger forcibly from an airplane bound for Louisville Kentucky.
Here are the bullets:

The plane was already loaded and full.The airline needed to fly four employees to Louisville Kentucky on the plane. The employees needed to go to prevent another plane from departing late.The airline offered $800 in compensation to the first four people who would volunteer to give up their seats. No one took the offer.The airline went to a lottery, drawing for people at random. These four people were asked to leave the plane, and they would receive the compensation.One of the passengers refused to leave. It's unclear how things escalated, however he was removed by security officers. Reports are conflicting about whether the officers were police officers, TSA workers, or airline staff.The gentleman was literally physically dragged down the aisle receiving while screaming in protest and physically abused in the process.Ap…