Hedgehog to Groundhog: A Brief History of Groundhog Day

Dre’shad Henry, Class of 2022, Co-Podcast Producer

Groundhog Day is held every year on Feb. 2 in Punxsutawney, Philadelphia, and this day will “determine” the weather for the next coming weeks. This ceremony is a tradition that has been occurring for the last 135 years and it is simple as to whether or not the groundhog, Punxsutawney Phil, sees his shadow. According to the legend of Groundhog Day, if Phil sees his shadow, there will be six more weeks of winter, if not, spring will come early.

 Groundhog Day is said to have originated from a Christian religious holiday: Candlemas Day, also celebrated on Feb. 2. On this day, Christians would gather in churches with their candles to have them blessed. For the remaining winter, these candles would bring blessings into their home. Here is one old English song of Candlemas:

If Candlemas be fair and bright,

Come, Winter, have another flight;

If Candlemas brings clouds and rain,

Go Winter, and come not again.

The song above has no indication or mention of a groundhog whatsoever. That is because the idea of having an animal in the tradition was a concept introduced by the Germans. They selected the hedgehog to be their weather predictor. When German settlers came to the United States, they brought along their traditions. However, there was a slight problem, hedgehogs are not native to North America, so a similar animal was chosen: the groundhog.

The Punxsutawney Groundhog Club, the organization that conducts Groundhog Day, states that Phil is correct 100% of the time, but students disagree on whether they believe in Punxsutawney Phil and his ability to determine six more weeks of winter or early spring. 

  “[Phil] is an animal and he’s not really reliable,” Ariana Galindo, junior said. 

Senior Lila Calderon said, “If the weather channel can’t predict the weather, then how can he?”

Even though Groundhog Day is an American tradition, some students never heard or were aware of the legend of Groundhog Day. 

Senior Emmanuel ‘Nox’ Colina said, “I have no clue [what] Groundhog Day necessarily is. I’ve never celebrated it before.”

The Pennsylvania Tourism Office is hosting live coverage of the 136th Groundhog Day celebration in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, as he answers this burning question. Catch the live stream on the following sites:

 

WHEN: Wednesday, February 2, 2022; 6:15 AM

WHERE: Gobbler’s Knob in Punxsutawney, PA.

LIVE STREAM: http://visitpa.com/groundhog-day-live-stream/

FACEBOOK LIVE: https://www.facebook.com/visitPA/ | Note: 7:15 AM Start Time

YOUTUBE LIVE: https://www.youtube.com/c/visitpa | Note: 7:15 AM Start Time

Be sure to follow Punxsutawney Phil on his Instagram.