Most of you probably know it as a movie starring Bill Murray, the rest probably deem it to be a relatively silly national holiday—but to us Pennsylvanians, Groundhog Day is a very serious, almost magical tradition deeply rooted in the hearts and souls of Pennsylvania residents… I’m just kidding. In Pennsylvania, it is true that Groundhog Day is a widely celebrated holiday, but it does lean towards the side of jovial, as opposed to serious. Nevertheless, it’s a fun tradition that does have some history behind it. I know what you’re probably wondering, “how in the world can there be history behind people thinking that a groundhog can predict the weather?” Well, as it turns out, you’re asking the right person.
For those who are unsure as to what I’m talking about, Groundhog Day is essentially a holiday/weather forecast that takes place on February 2nd each year at sunrise. As the sun rises, a handful of men dressed in suits and fancy hats take out the great prognosticator, Punxsutawney Phil (The Groundhog) out from his hole, and reveal him to the world. If Phil sees his shadow, that indicates another 6 weeks of winter. If he doesn’t, spring will come early. So how did this holiday come to this? Well, way back when in a place called Germany, they celebrated a holiday called Candlemas, in which they depicted that if the sun was shining that day, a hedgehog would see its shadow and bring about a ‘second winter’. The German settlers then came to the USA, specifically what is now modern day Pennsylvania. How the animal changed from a hedgehog to a groundhog is a story that varies depending on the storyteller—my best guess it that they couldn’t find any hedgehogs, and conceded that a groundhog would have to do. And so in 1886, Groundhog Day was born!
The history of the holiday is very interesting, but obviously we don’t continue to celebrate Candlemas nowadays. The celebration of Groundhog Day is done in a slightly different fashion in 2016, as opposed to 130 years ago. Generally, the day of festivities goes as follows. First, wake up at the crack of dawn and, in your PJs, flip on the TV to Punxsutawney, PA, where Phil will soon emerge (if you are unfortunate enough to not be there in person). Next, wait until Phil comes out of hiding, and experience the magic as Phil looks for his shadow. After the long awaited time has passed, the typical thing to do is to begin preparing for an obligatory groundhog-themed party, complete with groundhog-shaped cookies and cake, as well as groundhog-oriented games. Step 3: throw your extravagant Groundhog Day party. After the three main steps, I would usually suggest clean up after yourself... it’s what Phil would want.
There you have it. Groundhog Day: Sorted.