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Groundhog Day

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Groundhog Day

Groundhog Day
Groundhog Day 2005 in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, U.S.
Type Cultural
Significance Predicts the arrival of spring
Celebrations Announcing whether a groundhog sees its shadow after it emerges from its burrow
Date February 2
Next time 2 February 2016 (2016-02-02)
Frequency annual

Groundhog Day (Canadian French: Jour de la Marmotte; Pennsylvania German: Grundsaudaag, Murmeltiertag) is a day celebrated on February 2. According to folklore, if it is cloudy when a groundhog emerges from its burrow on this day, then spring will come early; if it is sunny, the groundhog will supposedly see its shadow and retreat back into its burrow, and the winter weather will persist for six more weeks.[1]

Modern customs of the holiday involve celebrations where early morning festivals are held to watch the groundhog emerging from its burrow.

In southeastern Pennsylvania, Groundhog Lodges (Grundsow Lodges) celebrate the holiday with fersommlinge,[2] social events in which food is served, speeches are made, and one or more g'spiel (plays or skits) are performed for entertainment. The Pennsylvania German dialect is the only language spoken at the event, and those who speak English pay a penalty, usually in the form of a nickel, dime, or quarter per word spoken, with the money put into a bowl in the center of the table.[3]

The largest Groundhog Day celebration is held in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania with Punxsutawney Phil. Groundhog Day, already a widely recognized and popular tradition,[4] received widespread attention as a result of the 1993 film Groundhog Day.[5]


The celebration, which began as a Pennsylvania German custom in southeastern and central Pennsylvania in the 18th and 19th centuries, has its origins in ancient European weather lore, wherein a badger or sacred bear is the prognosticator as opposed to a groundhog.[6] It also bears similarities to the Pagan festival of Imbolc (the seasonal turning point of the Celtic calendar, which is celebrated on February 1 and also involves weather prognostication[7]) and to St. Swithun's Day in July 15.

Historical origins

The groundhog (Marmota monax) is a rodent of the family Sciuridae, belonging to the group of large ground squirrels.
Banner of Grundsow Lodsh Nummer Sivva (Groundhog Lodge Number Seven), of Pennsburg, Pennsylvania.

The first documented American reference to Groundhog Day can be found in a diary entry,[8] dated February 4, 1841, of Morgantown, Pennsylvania, storekeeper James Morris:

Last Tuesday, the 2nd, was Candlemas day, the day on which, according to the Germans,[9] the Groundhog peeps out of his winter quarters and if he sees his shadow he pops back for another six weeks nap, but if the day be cloudy he remains out, as the weather is to be moderate.
In Scotland, the poem:

If Candle-mas Day is bright and clear,
There'll be two winters in the year.

An English poem:

If Candle mas be fair and bright,
Winter has another flight.
If Candlemas brings clouds and rain,
Winter will not come again.

Alternative origin theories

In western countries in the Northern Hemisphere, the official first day of spring is almost seven weeks (46–48 days) after Groundhog Day, on March 20 or March 21. The custom could have been a folk embodiment of the confusion created by the collision of two calendrical systems. Some ancient traditions marked the change of season at cross-quarter days such as Imbolc when daylight first makes significant progress against the night. Other traditions held that spring did not begin until the length of daylight overtook night at the Vernal Equinox. So an arbiter, the groundhog/hedgehog, was incorporated as a yearly custom to settle the two traditions. Sometimes spring begins at Imbolc, and sometimes winter lasts six more weeks until the equinox.[10]


The largest Groundhog Day celebration is held in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, where crowds as large as 40,000[11] have gathered to celebrate the holiday since at least 1886.[12] Other celebrations of note in Pennsylvania take place in Quarryville in Lancaster County,[13] the Anthracite Region of Schuylkill County,[14] the Sinnamahoning Valley[15] and Bucks County.[16]

The day is observed with various ceremonies at other communities in North America,[17] including in Wiarton, Ontario,[18] at the Shubenacadie Wildlife Park in Nova Scotia,[19] and at the University of Dallas in Irving, Texas (which has what is claimed to be the second largest Groundhog celebration in the world).[20]

Predictions of various groundhogs since 2008

Meteorological accuracy

According to Groundhog Day organizers, the rodents' forecasts are accurate 75% to 90% of the time.[125] However, a Canadian study for 13 cities in the past 30 to 40 years found that the weather patterns predicted on Groundhog Day were only 37% accurate over that time period.[125] According to the StormFax Weather Almanac and records kept since 1887, Punxsutawney Phil's weather predictions have been correct 39% of the time.[126] The National Climatic Data Center has described the forecasts as "on average, inaccurate" and stated that "[t]he groundhog has shown no talent for predicting the arrival of spring, especially in recent years."[127]

In popular culture

  • At the end of Disney's 1930 Silly Symphonies short film Winter, Mr. Groundhog the Weather Prophet comes out of his hole to determine whether or not there will be more winter. At first, he does not see his shadow, but the clouds clear and his shadow appears, causing him to run back inside. At this point, the winds picks up again and winter continues.
  • Tex Avery's 1940 Warner Brothers cartoon Wacky Wildlife features a brief gag with a groundhog that peeks outside, then retreats into a burrow filled with high-tech (for the time) weather equipment.
  • The 1941 Woody Woodpecker short Pantry Panic portrays the groundhog as a weather forecaster, although in this case he forecasts the timing of the beginning of winter, not the end of it.
  • The 1947 Warner Bros. cartoon One Meat Brawl features Grover Groundhog singing the "Groundhog Song" with music by Carl W. Stalling and lyrics by Warren Foster.[128]
  • In the 1979 Rankin-Bass Christmas TV special Jack Frost, a crucial plot point in the story involves Jack casting his own shadow on Groundhog Day for six more weeks of winter. At the end of the story it is revealed that the narrator (voiced by Buddy Hackett) is the groundhog.
  • From the 1990 album Frizzle Fry by the San Francisco area trio Primus, Ground Hog's Day appears as the second track. The song is set on Ground Hog's day, from the anthropomorphic perspective of the groundhog. The song's theme deals with growth, perseverance, and fresh starts.
  • The 1993 comedy movie Groundhog Day takes place in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania on this day (although the majority of the movie was actually filmed in Woodstock, Illinois). The main character (played by Bill Murray) is forced to relive the day over and over again until he can learn to give up his selfishness and become a better person.[129] In popular culture, the phrase "Groundhog Day" has come to represent going through a phenomenon over and over until one spiritually transcends it.[130]
  • In "Franklin and the Grump" from Franklin (Season 3, 2000), the character Mr. Groundhog was an anthropomorphic groundhog with a great interest in meteorology who didn't want to participate in Groundhog Day anymore because there were always those who were upset regardless of what he predicted. He "officially canceled" the holiday, but the title character told his friends and family about the problem and the entire community gathered to give him a day just for him. Mr. Groundhog was later featured as more regular character in the series.
  • In Disney's 2006 film Bambi II, Bambi accompanies his friends Thumper and Flower to go and see the Groundhog, whose shadow will foretell if winter will end soon.
  • In the 2012 Dreamworks film Rise of the Guardians, when the Man in the Moon is about to choose a new Guardian, Bunnymund hopes that it isn't the Groundhog.
  • On the deluxe edition of his 2013 album "The Marshall Mathers LP 2", Eminem raps about his constant state of instability as a child and his early experiences with hip-hop in "Groundhog Day".

Similar customs

A similar custom is celebrated among Orthodox Christians in Serbia on February 15 (February 2 according to local Julian calendar) during the feast of celebration of Sretenje or The Meeting of the Lord. It is believed that on this day the bear will awake from winter dormancy, and if in this sleepy and confused state it sees (meets) its own shadow, it will get scared and go back to sleep for an additional 40 days, thus prolonging the winter. Thus, if it is sunny on Sretenje, it is the sign that the winter is not over yet. If it is cloudy, it is a good sign that the winter is about to end.

In Germany, June 27 is "Siebenschläfertag" (Seven Sleepers Day). If it rains that day, the rest of summer is supposedly going to be rainy. While it might seem to refer to the "Siebenschläfer" squirrel (Glis glis), also known as the "edible dormouse", it actually commemorates the Seven Sleepers (the actual commemoration day is July 25).

In the United Kingdom, July 15 is known as St. Swithun's day. It was traditionally believed if it rained on that day, it would rain for the next 40 days and nights.

In Alaska, February 2 is observed as Marmot Day rather than Groundhog Day because few groundhogs exist in the state.[131]

See also


  1. ^ Cohen, p. 57.
  2. ^ Yoder, p. xii.
  3. ^ Rosenberger, Homer Tope (1966). The Pennsylvania Germans: 1891–1965. Lancaster, PA: Pennsylvania German Society. pp. 194–199.  
  4. ^ "Pennsylvania Town Awaits Groundhog Day". New York Times. February 2, 1986. Retrieved January 27, 2011. 
  5. ^ Yoder, pp. 14–15.
  6. ^ Yoder, p. i.
  7. ^ Yoder, p. 43.
  8. ^ History Society of Berks County, Reading, Pennsylvania.
  9. ^ The attribution to the "Germans" may be based on some German Bauernregeln (farmers' rules) like this one: Wenn sich der Dachs zu Lichtmeß sonnt, so gehet er wieder auf vier Wochen in sein Loch. (If the badger is in the sun at Candlemas, he will have to go back into his hole for another four weeks. Joseph Arnold Lewenau : Der angewandte Fresenius; oder, Sammlung geordneter allgemeiner Witterungs- und sogenannter Bauernregeln: mit beygefügten Erklärungen ihres Grundes und vernünftigen Sinnes zu einem nützlichen Gebrauch ... vorzüglich beym Betriebe der Landwirthschaft. Vienna: J.G. Mösle, 1823, p. 20.
  10. ^ Groundhog Day, Margaret Kruesi. Journal of American Folklore. Washington: Summer 2007. Vol. 120, Iss. 477; p. 367+.
  11. ^ Park, PhD, David (2006). "Happy Groundhog Day to You!". Retrieved February 2, 2009. 
  12. ^ Yoder, p. 9.
  13. ^ Yoder, pp. 19–28.
  14. ^ Yoder, pp. 29–30.
  15. ^ Yoder, pp. 30–31.
  16. ^ Yoder, p. 31.
  17. ^ Yoder, pp. 33.
  18. ^ "Hopeful Canadians look to Groundhog Day for predictions of an early spring". Canadian Press. February 2, 2014. Retrieved February 20, 2014. 
  19. ^ "Shubenacadie Sam prepping for Groundhog Day". King's County Register. January 30, 2014. Retrieved February 20, 2014. 
  20. ^ Colleges in the Midwest: Compare Colleges in Your Region (24 ed.). Peterson's. 2009. p. 298.  
  21. ^ a b Czech, Ted (February 2, 2014). NWS predicts 4 to 8 inches of snow; most groundhogs call for 6 more weeks of winter. Evening Sun (Hanover, PA). Retrieved February 2, 2014.
  22. ^ Will, Bob (January 11, 2014). "Dunkirk Dave Did NOT See His Shadow". Dunkirk Dave. Retrieved February 3, 2014. 
  23. ^ Puskar, Gene (February 2, 2014). Punxsutawney Phil, Poor Richard, Dover Doug predict longer winter. Associated Press. Retrieved February 2, 2014.
  24. ^ Wrobleski, Tom. Fumbled Chuck joins 'forkgate' among de Blasio's Staten Island flubs (photos, video). Staten Island Advance. Retrieved February 2, 2014.
  25. ^ a b Armaghan, Sarah and Priscilla Korb (February 2, 2014). Malverne Mel, Holtsville Hal don't see shadows, call for early spring. Newsday. Retrieved February 2, 2014.
  26. ^ Costisella, Marie-Claude (February 2, 2014). "Fred de Val d’Espoir Predicts and Early Spring" (in Français). Regional Weeklies Quebecor Media. Retrieved February 3, 2014. 
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  28. ^ Prest, Ashley (February 2, 2014). "Willow the groundhog says early spring coming". Winnipeg Free Press (Winnipeg, MB). 
  29. ^ Sturtz, Ken (February 2, 2014). "Groundhog Day 2014: Did Punxsutawney Phill see his shadow?". The Post-Standard (Syracuse, NY). 
  30. ^ Punzel, Denis (February 11, 2013). "Sun Prairie's Jimmy the Groundhog predicts early spring". Wisconsin State Journal (Madison, WI). 
  31. ^ a b Bates, Jim (February 2, 2013). "Happy Groundhog Day, Colorado-style". The Denver Post (Denver, CO). 
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  34. ^ Gomez, Luis (February 2, 2013). "Potomac Phil Predicts an Early Spring and More Political Gridlock". Borderstan. 
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  45. ^ "African, American concur with six more weeks of winter prediction". WCBC (Cumberland, MD). February 2, 2012. 
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  52. ^ "Groundhog Day 2012". WTRF. Wheeling, WV. February 2, 2012. 
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  55. ^ "Spring's Right Around the Corner". Hastings Tribune (Hastings, NE). February 2, 2012. Retrieved February 2, 2012. 
  56. ^ "Georgia's groundhog predicts early spring". Athens Banner-Herald (Athens, GA). February 2, 2012. 
  57. ^ Knapp, Tom (February 2, 2012). "Octoraro Orphie predicts an early spring". Intelligencer Journal (Lancaster, PA). 
  58. ^ Riley, Ed (February 2, 2012). "Dunkirk Dave predicts early spring". WKBW-TV (Buffalo, NY). 
  59. ^ DeRosa, Ronald (February 2, 2012). "POLL: Punxsutawney Phil Vs. Chuck". Naugatuck Patch (Naugatuck, CT). 
  60. ^ Bilstad, Erik (2012). "Milwaukee's Groundhog Did Not See Shadow". Today's TMJ 4. Retrieved February 3, 2013. 
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  62. ^ "Groundhog's Forecast: More Winter". KBOI (Boise, ID). February 2, 2012. 
  63. ^ "Ground Hog Day update". CFTR. Toronto. February 3, 2013. 
  64. ^ "Groundhog Day: Quebec groundhog disagrees with Shubenacadie Sam, Wiarton Willie". The Gazette (Montreal, CA). February 2, 2012. 
  65. ^ "Beau doesn't see his shadow! An early spring is just around the corner". General Beauregard Lee's official Twitter. February 2, 2012. 
  66. ^ Conry, Tara (February 2, 2012). "Malverne Mel predicts six more weeks of winter". Malverne-West Hempstead ( 
  67. ^ Dymski, Gary (February 2, 2012). "Holtsville Hal, Malverne Mel disagree on winter". Long Island Newsday (Melville, NY). 
  68. ^ "Buckeye Chuck in Marion fails to see shadow, 'predicts' spring is near". Mansfield News Journal. Mansfield, OH. February 2, 2012. 
  69. ^ Silverstein, Irving (February 2, 2012). "Groundhog Day 2012: Staten Island Chuck predicts early spring". Staten Island Advance (Staten Island, NY). 
  70. ^ "This just in: ShubenacadieSam didn't see his shadow. Spring is on the way folks, as long as you trust adorable rodents.". Global Halifax. February 2, 2012. 
  71. ^ a b c "Past Predictions". The Punxutawney Groundhog Club. February 2, 2011. 
  72. ^ "No matter what, there will be weather". Hudson, NY: Hudson Register-Star. February 3, 2011. 
  73. ^ Schrock, Jeff (February 2, 2011). "French Creek Freddie Predicts Early Spring for 2011". The State Journal (Charleston, WV). 
  74. ^ "Snow even too much for Willie the groundhog". Chicago Sun-Times (Chicago, IL). February 2, 2011. 
  75. ^ "Athens’ groundhog emerges to predict spring". The Red and Black (Athens, GA). February 2, 2011. 
  76. ^ "Octorara Orphie sees 6 more weeks of winter". Lancaster Online (Lancaster, PA). February 2, 2011. 
  77. ^ "Winter's not over yet". CFCN-TV (Calgary, Alberta, CA). February 2, 2011. 
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  83. ^ Bolger, Timothy (February 2, 2011). "Holtsville Hal predicts long winter on Groundhog Day". Long Island Press (Syosset, NY). 
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  85. ^ a b "Wiarton Willie predicts early spring". Toronto Star. February 2, 2011. 
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  87. ^ "Groundhog". WCBC. 2011. Retrieved February 3, 2013. 
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  90. ^ Carey, Elizabeth (February 2, 2011). "Groundhogs call for spring as storm flops". Buffalo Business Journal (Buffalo, NY). 
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  100. ^ Nguyen, Thao. "Woodstock Willie: An early spring is coming". Northwest Herald (Crystal Lake, IL). Retrieved February 2, 2010. 
  101. ^ "Mix of cheers and groans as Wiarton Willie predicts six more weeks of winter". The Canadian Press. 
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  111. ^ Keeshan, Chuck (February 2, 2009). "Woodstock Willie: Bundle up; more winter ahead". Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL). Retrieved December 11, 2010. 
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  113. ^ Umble, Chad (February 2, 2009). "Orphie says: Button up!". Intellignecer Journal (Lancaster, PA). Retrieved December 11, 2010. 
  114. ^ Silverstein, Irving (February 2, 2009). "Staten Island Chuck predicts spring is near". Staten Island Advance (Staten Island, NY). 
  115. ^ a b "No surprises as Wiarton Willy and pals predict more winter". London Free Press (London, ON). February 2, 2009. 
  116. ^ a b "Groundhog Predicts More Winter Weather". Associated Press. 200-02-02. 
  117. ^ "Dunkirk Dave predicts early spring". Evening Observer (Dunkirk, NY). February 2, 2009. 
  118. ^ "Wisconsin's Jimmy the groundhog predicts an early spring". WBAY-TV. Associated Press. February 3, 2008. 
  119. ^ West, Shirley (February 3, 2008). "Early spring? Dunkirk Dave says yes!". Evening Observer (Dunkirk, NY). 
  120. ^ a b "Canada's groundhogs agree: Spring's coming early". CTV. February 2, 2008. 
  121. ^ Stradling, Richard. "2008-02-03". The News & Observer (Raleigh, NC). 
  122. ^ a b Lytle, Steve (February 2, 2008). "Charlotte's groundhog sees shadow". The Charlotte Observer (Charlotte, NC). 
  123. ^ a b "An early spring, says Malverne Mel". Long Island Newsday (Melville, NY). February 2, 2008. 
  124. ^ "Buckeye Chuck Fails to See Shadow". WCMH. February 2, 2008. 
  125. ^ a b Phillips, David. "Groundhog Day". The Canadian Encyclopedia. Historica Foundation of Canada. 
  126. ^ Groundhog Day History. Stormfax Weather Almanac.
  127. ^ "Groundhog Forecasters versus the U.S. Temperature Record". NOAA National Climatic Data Center. Retrieved January 31, 2013. 
  128. ^ One Meat Brawl at the Internet Movie Database
  129. ^ Groundhog Day (1993)
  130. ^ "The spiritual power of repetitive form: Steps toward transcendence in Groundhog Day." Suzanne Daughton, Critical Studies in Mass Communication. Annandale: Jun 1996. Vol. 13, Iss. 2; p. 138, 17 pgs
  131. ^ The Associated Press. "Alaska to celebrate its first Marmot Day," Fairbanks Daily News-Miner. February 1, 2010. Accessed Feb 1, 2010.


  • Cohen, H.; Coffin, T. P. (1987). The Folklore of American Holidays. Detroit: Gale Research. 
  • Yoder, Don (2003). Groundhog Day. Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania: Stackpole Books.  

Further reading

External links

  • Groundhog Day – The Official Website of the Punxsatawney Groundhog Club
  • Short Punxsutawney Groundhog Day Documentary: "A Holiday for Everyone"
  • Groundhog Days in Woodstock, IL
  • Wiarton Willie Festival – Wiarton, Ontario, Canada
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