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The History of Groundhog Day

By Chris Taylor Thursday, February 2, 2017

If you’re wondering how Groundhog Day got started, here is the story behind its origins! Groundhogs are most famously known for the American tradition of predicting the end of winter. Each year on February 2 which is Groundhog Day, the Groundhog is brought out to see if it notices its own shadow. If it sees its shadow then it is believed that we will have 6 more weeks of Winter. If February 2 is overcast, the legend says the Groundhog will not see its own shadow and we will have a mild ride for the rest of the Winter.

I took a look at the origin of this tradition and found that it started in Europe as Candlemas Day. This is a derivative of the Pagan observance of Imbolc. Imbolc observes the first changes in the Sun and the first sprouts of buds. The wheel was switching from the position of the Crone to the position of the Maiden, or Winter to Spring.

Early Christians observed this with clergy distributing blessed candles on Candlemas Day to the people in the dark of Winter. A lighted candle was to be placed in the window of each home. The day’s weather mattered also because an overcast Candlemas Day meant that the worst part of winter was behind you.

The earliest reference to the Groundhog being a part of Candlemas day came from James Morris’ diary in 1841. This credited the Groundhog adaptation to the Germans in Pennsylvania. If the Groundhog saw his shadow then he went back to hibernating, if he stayed awake and moved around then again the worst of winter was over.

The most famous Groundhog in the United States is Punxsutawney Phil. At 7:25 a.m. every February 2nd, Phil is brought out to make his prediction. One thing that most people don’t know is a Groundhog is referred to as a Woodchuck because the Native Americans considered all Groundhogs to be descendants of “Wojak the Groundhog”.

Enjoy the day!

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