I come from a very strange family. For example: we have watched the movie Groundhog’s Day each year on Groundhog’s day until I moved out. (Technically my parents still do, but I no longer do.) If you’ve not seen the movie, Bill Murray’s character is stuck reliving the same day, Groundhog’s Day, over and over again. He can’t die; he can’t leave the town he’s stuck in; he cannot do anything but live out Groundhog’s Day until he gets it right. The fact that we watch this film every year without fail adds some special irony to the occasion.
However, I started to wonder, how did Groundhog Day begin? It is a rather odd superstition when you think about it. So, I did a little research.
There is a lot of adorable information about the Groundhog’s Day celebration in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania on the official site. There is information such as how long Punxsutawney Phil has been making his predictions: this is his 126th year officiating officially; in what language Phil makes his prediction: Groundhogese; and when the first official trek to Gobbler’s Knob was made: February 2nd, 1886. “The celebration of Groundhog Day began with Pennsylvania’s earliest settlers. They brought with them the legend of Candlemas Day.” Apparently there are several poems associated with Candlemas Day and the weather. All of them are a tiny bit different, but they all go something like this Scottish couplet:
“If Candlemas Day is bright and clear,
There’ll be twa (two) winters in a year.”
The celebration of Candlemas Day, and therefore Groundhog Day, is quite possiblly also aligned with the pagan holiday Imbolc, a celebration of the halfway point between Winter Solstice and the Spring equinox.
If you’re interested: Candlemas Day is a Catholic festival of sorts. There’s a lot of interesting religious jazz involved, but let me distill the whole thing a bit: Candlemas Day celebrates the day when Mary would have been cleansed from birthing a boy, and would have brought little baby Jesus into the Temple in Jerusalem to offer an animal sacrifice. There’s also a blessing of candles which takes place during the ceremony and a procession, too.
Supposedly, it’s the Germans who attached an animal to Candlemas. If it is sunny outside on Candlemas Day, then the hedgehog would see his shadow and therefore another winter (or another six weeks) came. Germans were the predominant settlers of Pennsylvania, and they replaced the hedgehog with the Groundhog. Ta da! A bizarre tradition is born!
That’s all good and well, but I don’t much care for cold myself. In fact, I’m a self-proclaimed wimp when it comes to cold. (Seriously, just ask Sapphire or Indigo. It would take me almost 150% longer to bundle for cold weather than either of them.) I’d really prefer it if some old woodchuck isn’t in charge of my comfort.
This year, Punxsutawney Phil has predicted six more weeks of winter. I must say, I’m not sure if I believe the little marmot. It already feels like spring where I am, and has for a couple of weeks now. Oh well. It’s still a fun tradition.