Every year that little rodent pops up to do what weather forecasters fail to do on a weekly basis: predict the weather. Okay, so maybe Punxsutawney Phil is cute and all, but what are the real origins of Groundhog Day?
This happens every February 2nd. Fact.
Groundhog Day, besides being the next step in Bill Murray’s career, actually has a back story to it. First, you should know that Pennsylvania was primarily made up of German settlers back in the 1700s. At that time, the German tradition of Candlemas, Groundhog Day’s precursor, made its way from Europe over to America. Though instead of a groundhog, it is believed that the German settlers used a badger, or possibly a sacred bear or hedgehog, for this tradition. The origins are still unclear.
Some people like the Ancient Greeks believed that hibernation in animals was a time for spiritual renewal and reflection and that the souls of animals were contained in their shadows. Should an animal see their shadow in the spring, it was a sign that they needed to hibernate longer and continue their quest to shed their misbehavior or misdeeds.
Some people in England believed that the type of weather on Candlemas determined what the weather would be for the rest of winter. England folklore describes that if the weather is nice and sunny, that cold winter would follow. Likewise, if the weather on Candlemas was cold and snowy, the rest of winter would be warm and sunny.
According to an old English poem:
If Candlemas be fair and bright,
winter has another flight.
When Candlemas brings cloud and rain,
winter shall not come again.
In any case, Groundhog Day came into fruition in 1886 when it became officially celebrated in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. Cylmer Freas, a newspaper editor for The Punxsutawney Spirit, wrote: “Today is groundhog day and up to the time of going to press the beast has not seen its shadow.”
A year later, in 1887, Gobbler’s Knob came into being and the groundhog was given a name…”Punxsutawney Phil, Seer of Seers, Sage of Sages, Prognosticator of Prognosticators, and Weather Prophet Extraordinar.” The name was given by a group of groundhog hunters who dubbed themselves, “The Punxsutawney Groundhog Club.”
So tradition began and on every February 2nd, people would gather around waiting to see what their famous weatherman had to say.
In 1993, the movie Groundhog Day starring Bill Murray attempted to put Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania on the map even further. Not surprisingly, it worked. The number of people to visit Gobbler’s Knob following the release of that movie has been recorded to reach as high as 30,000 people in one sitting.
I’m starting to think that Bill Murray should probably see a shrink about his ongoing obsessionial rodent problem.
There you have it folks, history lesson over. Here’s hoping for a nice, warm remaining six weeks until Spring.