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The Groundhog Blog

“Some people seemed to get all sunshine, and some all shadow…”
Louisa May Alcott, Little Women

This year will mark the 138th appearance of Punxsutawney Phil and the celebration of Groundhog Day. One of the United States oldest traditions, Groundhog Day is celebrated around the country and has its origins right here in Pennsylvania.  

The celebration of Groundhog Day stems from an ancient Christian celebration known as Candlemas Day. Candlemas Day, celebrated on February 2nd, exactly 40 days after Christmas, marked the midpoint between the winter solstice and the spring equinox. According to the National Centers for Environmental Information, on Candlemas Day, clergy would bless candles needed for winter and distribute them to their congregation. Superstition held that if the day was sunny and clear, people could expect a long, rough winter, but if the sky was cloudy, warm weather would arrive soon.

Pennsylvania’s earliest settlers were mostly German. The Germans expanded on the Candlemas tradition, introducing the hedgehog to the mix. They believed that if the sun appeared and the hedgehog saw his shadow, there would be six more weeks of bad weather, or a “Second Winter.” Finding few hedgehogs in their new country, bears became an option. As their numbers thinned, both badgers and foxes were used. Ultimately, they settled on the Groundhog, a popular resident of the newly established commonwealth.

In 1886, the “Punxsutawney Groundhog Club” was formed. One member, a newspaper editor, proclaimed Punxsutawney Phil, the local groundhog, to be the one and only prophesying groundhog. News spread and papers around the country and Canada began to report on the animal’s prediction. Except for the years during WWII, when weather forecasting became a military secret, the tradition and celebration were annual. Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania began to draw crowds to cheer the groundhog on. Today, more than 30,000 attend his morning routine on February 2nd.

As winter settles in and we turn the corner towards spring, our hopes are for no shadow for our furry friend Phil. For more information on Groundhog Day and more to discover check out Visit PA. To learn more about how we can help your digital communications strategy, visit Dandelions Digital or email us by clicking here.

Portions of this article are from the VisitPA website.