Origins of Groundhog Day

February 4, 2020

Photo credit: AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar.

 

As most of us know, Sunday, Feb. 2, is Groundhog Day. According to tradition, if the groundhog sees its shadow and darts back into its home, we will have six more weeks of winter; but if it does not see its shadow and stays outside, we will have an early spring. But what are the origins of this tradition?

 

The idea of predicting the change of seasons probably comes from the Celts, who celebrated a day in February between the winter and spring equinoxes. Later, a superstition developed among medieval Christians that if it were sunny on Candlemas, a Christian celebration, there would be 40 more days of snow and ice.

 

Germans had their own take on the superstition that more closely resembles Groundhog Day: they believed that if badgers saw their shadows and returned to hibernation, there would be more winter. Eventually this spread to the United States, where groundhogs became the animals to predict the change of seasons.

 

While Groundhog Day is one of the least celebrated holidays, it has an interesting background and remains a fun way to kick off spring...or settle in for more winter.

 

Good news! The groundhog predicted an early spring this year!

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