Punxsutawney Phil did in fact see his shadow this morning, meaning six more weeks of winter. While Groundhog Day is one of the oddest traditions in the United States, most people don’t actually know where the whole idea started. Great Plains Communications looked to our cable channel, the History Channel for more on the origin of this bizarre holiday and we would like to share a few facts we found.
The idea originally stemmed from an ancient Christian tradition called Candlemas Day. History Channel describes Candlemas Day as a day when, “clergy would bless and distribute candles needed for winter,” with the candles, “representing how long and cold the winter would be”. From there, the Germans expanded on this idea and chose a hedgehog as a way of predicting the weather. Once German settlers made their way to America, they continued the tradition in Pennsylvania, but switching to the locally common groundhog rather than a hedgehog.
The first Groundhog Day celebration was on February 2, 1887 at Gobbler’s Knob in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. It was created after a local newspaper editor, Clymer Freas, pitched the idea to a group of businessmen and groundhog hunters known as the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club. They found the area of Gobbler’s Knob where the inaugural groundhog has led to the Punxsutawney Phil we know today.
As the idea of a groundhog predicting weather picked up popularity, additional areas have adopted their own traditions of a local creature helping with the annual weather forecast. In Vermillion, Ohio, they have the wooly bear caterpillar, where if the insect has more orange than black coloring on its furry body, the coming winter will be mild. Places have also adopted their own local groundhog to make their predictions, such as General Beau Lee in Atlanta, GA, Sir Walter Wally in Raleigh, N.C., and Jimmy in Sun Prairie, WI.
Just as he saw his shadow this morning, Phil has seen his shadow 102 times in high contrast to the 17 times he has not. No matter if you are bundling up to get through the next six weeks of winter or celebrating the few more weeks for cooler temperatures, Great Plains Communications would like to wish everyone a wonderful Groundhogs Day.