Groundhog Day is celebrated on February 2.
It is said on this day, when the groundhog comes out of his deep sleep, if he sees his shadow it means there will be six more weeks of winter. If there is no shadow to be seen, spring is near.
The official groundhog is named Punxsutawney Phil, who appears from his hole at Gobbler’s Knole in Pennsylvania every year. The first recorded celebration of Groundhog Day, then still known as Candlemas Day, was in the year 1841 in Morgantown, PA. However, the first official Groundhog Day at Gobbler’s Knole was in February of 1887.
The idea of Groundhog Day roots from the comparable European tradition, Candlemas Day. February 2nd has always been a significant day since it marks the dead of winter. On this day, the clergy would bless candles and hand them out to the people. As an old English song went a little something like this:
“If Candlemas be fair and bright,
Come, Winter, have another flight;
If Candlemas brings clouds and rain,
Go Winter, and come not again.”
History goes that the Roman legions brought the Candlemas tradition to the Germans, who constructed the idea that if the sun was out and an animal, in their case a hedgehog, cast a shadow, there would be six more weeks of winter. When the Germans came to Pennslyvania, they found groundhogs to be similar to the hedgehog used in their tradition. The groundhog was then adopted as the animal who determines the course of the winter season.
In Alaska, Marmot Day is celebrated on February 2, replacing the holiday holiday to honor Alaska’s marmots.