Groundhog Day

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Groundhog Day
Groundhog Day 2005 in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, U.S.
SignificancePredicts the arrival of spring
CelebrationsAnnouncing whether a groundhog sees its shadow after it emerges from its burrow
DateFebruary 2
Next time2 February 2015 (2015-02-02)
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For the film, see Groundhog Day (film). For other uses, see Groundhog Day (disambiguation).
Groundhog Day
Groundhog Day 2005 in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, U.S.
SignificancePredicts the arrival of spring
CelebrationsAnnouncing whether a groundhog sees its shadow after it emerges from its burrow
DateFebruary 2
Next time2 February 2015 (2015-02-02)

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[edit]

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[edit]

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[edit]

Meteorological accuracy[edit]

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[edit]

Similar customs[edit]

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[edit]


  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. OCLC 1745108. 
  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. ISBN 9780768926903. Retrieved February 1, 2013. 
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  128. ^ One Meat Brawl at the Internet Movie Database
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  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.


Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]