I know you’re thinking “Huh?” Ground hogs day ! Sure if we were to accumulate a list of the best holidays on the calendar it might not be on the top of the list, but like its black sheep brother Flag Day it’s on the calendar. Now I am bias, Feb 2 is my birthday. My whole life when age/birthday comes up I always tell people I was born on a holiday. So of course they try and guess, I tell them it’s in February and its immediately Valentine’s day or Presidents day.
They then get stumped and I tell them it’s Ground Hogs day. I normally get a smile, once in a while I get the obligatory “that’s not a real holiday” which I indignantly reply “it’s on the calendar every year” which normally ends the conversation LOL. So why IS it on the calendar? Why is this lesser holiday on the calendar every year? Well we know In the states every year in Punxsutawney PA the pull this poor animal out of its hole and determine if they can see its shadow or not. So if it sees its shadow we have 6 more weeks of winter, if not winter is supposed to end sooner.
The history is interesting, it goes back to German settlers that brought the tradition with them to America. It’s part of a Christian tradition Candlemas (Link) which was always celebrated on 2/2. In Germany they began selecting animals to help them predict the remaining length of the winter. The “shadow” of the animal was to represent the light of the candle from the Candlemas tradition.
“In 1887, a newspaper editor belonging to a group of groundhog hunters from Punxsutawney called the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club declared that Phil, the Punxsutawney groundhog, was America’s only true weather-forecasting groundhog. The line of groundhogs that have since been known as Phil might be America’s most famous groundhogs, but other towns across North America now have their own weather-predicting rodents, from Birmingham Bill to Staten Island Chuck to Shubenacadie Sam in Canada.”
It’s now become a national event with tens of thousands of people showing up for the event. We all know the movie “ground hogs day” with Bill Murray, but back in 1887 it was still a local tradition only shared among the German population. It grew as a novelty story over time as local and national papers picked up the story which helped them grow the tradition.