All About Groundhog Day

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I think this is one the nicest traditions around! Especially since it breaks up the monotony of grey, snowy and cold days for some of us living in the climate that gives us reasons to get excited about spring coming possibly soon.

If you are not sure what Groundhog day is – or if you haven’t seen the 1993 movie with Bill Murray, the concept is pretty simple: Groundhog comes of his burrow – is he doesn’t see his shadow, winter will end soon. And on the other side – if he does see his shadow, winter will last for 6 more weeks. You have to like how this is structured:

No shadow  = spring will be here soon.

Yes shadow = 6 more weeks of winter.

Looking out of my window right now, 6 more weeks of winter is not so bad!

I have a feeling that this tradition is a good reason to have a party and celebrate – and there is nothing wrong with that. But I did look into the history of the Groundhog day and I found out some interesting facts:

  • Groundhog Days is celebrated on February 2nd and held in United States and Canada.
  • The tradition comes from on old folklore that states: if a groundhog emerges from its burrow on this day and fails to see its shadow, the groundhog will leave its burrow and winter will end soon.
  • This celebration began as a Pennsylvania German custom in southeastern and central Pennsylvania in the 18th century and has its origins in ancient European weather lore, where the main characters were either a badger or a bear as opposed to a groundhog.
  • This holiday also bears some similarities to the medieval catholic holiday of Candlemas andto Pagan festival of Imbolc, the seasonal turning point of the Celtic calendar, which was celebrated on February 2nd and involved weather prognostication.
  • The most famous Groundhog day celebration are held in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, where as many as 40,000 celebrate the holiday and wait for the appearance of the famous Punxsutawney Phil. This celebration started in 1886.
  • Punxsutawney is located in Western Pennsylvania, about 80 miles northeast of Pittsburg.

About Punxsutawney Phil

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The groundhog’s full name is actually “Punxsutawney Phil, Seer of Seers, Sage of Sages, Prognosticator of Prognosticators and Weather Prophet Extraordinary.” It was so proclaimed by the “Punxsutawney Groundhog Club” in 1887, the same year they declared Punxsutawney to be the weather capital of the world.

For most of the year, Phil lives in a climate-controlled home at the Punxsutawney Library. He is taken to Gobbler’s Knob and placed in a heated burrow underneath a simulated tree stump on stage before being pulled out at 7:25 am on Groundhog Day, February 2, to make his prediction.
Most major television stations across the country, as well as the big screen in Times Square, broadcast the official Groundhog Day ceremony.

About Wiarton Willie.

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Wiarton Willie is an albino groundhog, which means he is pure white, who, every February 2nd, climbs out of his hole, and predicts the weather. If Wiarton Willie sees his shadow, we will have six more weeks of winter. However, if he doesn’t see his shadow, we will have an early spring.
Wonder how Wiarton got to be the Groundhog Capitol on Canada?

Well, 54 years ago, in January of 1956, a local by the name of Mac Mackenzie was trying to stir up a little fun in Wiarton, because back then, it wasn’t a very active place in wintertime. So, Mac decided to have a party. He sent out invitations to his friends, calling for a ‘Groundhog Day’ celebration, and set the date for February 2nd. Somehow, one of these invitations fell into the hands of a Toronto Star reporter.

This reporter traveled to Wiarton, hoping to write a story on the bog festival. However, when he got here, nothing was going on; it was just Mac and a few of his friends having a drink at the local pub. The reporter told Mac that he just couldn’t go back home without a story so Mac, thinking quickly, grabbed one of his friend’s wife’s hats (which was white and furry), dug a hole in the snow, popped the hat into the hole, and made a weather prediction. The reporter took the photo, and the next day the story ran in the Toronto Star as ‘Groundhog Day’. The next year, about 50 people showed up for the festival, and the legend was born.

Nowadays, the festival attracts close to 10,000 people a year, with such activities and events as parades, dances, ice hockey tournaments, pancake breakfasts and the fabled Wiarton Willie Weather prediction.

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I hope you have fun day on the Groundhog Day and that either one of those furry creatures will see his shadow!

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About the author

Hanna Trafford

Hanna is the mother of two grown sons Dan and Dusan Nedelko, and is also the Grandmother to Jax, Cohen and Mila. She is the lead editor of Mama Knows and is hoping to create an exchange of communications with other grandmothers, mothers and daughters - giving everyone the opportunity to learn and share about everything that is "Mama"

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