The origins of Groundhog Day is a bit of an interesting topic.
For one, our favorite rodent is here again to predict the winter weather for the next few weeks. Spring or winter? Winter or spring? We rely on a buck-toothed hog of the ground to answer our questions. Beyond that….how the hell did Groundhog Day come to be? We need a history lesson to fully understand the origins of Groundhog Day and to fully respect our furball February legend.
On February 2nd, 1887, the good townspeople of Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania featured a rodent meteorologist at Gobbler’s Knob to predict if winter was sticking around for another six weeks or if spring was on its way. In this year, a newspaper editor belonging to a group of groundhog hunters known as the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club declared that Phil, the now-famous Punxsutawney groundhog, was America’s only true weather-forecasting groundhog. Other towns tried to copy the title but Phil and Punxsutawney endured.
To better explain this interesting event in 1887 and the overall origins of Groundhog Day, we trace this festive holiday back to its roots in the ancient Christian tradition of Candlemas Day with the Germans. In Candlemas, clergy would bless and distribute candles that were necessary to fend off the colds of winter. The number of candles distributed symbolized the length and coldness of the winter season. Of course, the Germans had to elaborate on this by incorporating an animal – the hedgehog – as a means of predicting the weather.
Upon coming to America, German settlers found that hedgehogs were not in as great of supply as their cousins, the groundhog. So what did they do? Fire the hedgehog and hire the groundhog. And that is what we have today. A Germanic tradition in the Keystone State that attracts tens of thousands of people each year. Go figure how it happen but thank the gods for Phil and Bill Murray.
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