What Is Groundhog Day?

The Groundhog Day is celebrated in February 2nd as a way to predict the arrival of spring. The events of the day include celebrations held in the early hours of the morning to observe the marmot that leaves its lair. Folklore wants the marmot to emerge from the tunnel on a cloudy morning, the spring season will come soon, probably before the spring equinox. If the marmot appears on a sunny day, it will retreat to its burrow seeing its shadow and, therefore, spring will not begin for another six weeks.

Origin of the Groundhog Day

Groundhog Day celebrations began in the 18th and 19th century as a German Pennsylvania custom. In the ancient European tradition of the time from which the tradition emerged, a badger or a sacred bear rather than the hedgehog is the precursor. The Groundhog Day is very similar to the Imbolc pagan festival and St Swithun day. The Imbolc festival is held in February 2 to celebrate the turn of the Celtic calendar and provides weather forecasts while the St Swithun day is held in July 15.

A diary of James Morris, a shopkeeper in Morgantown, Pennsylvania, is the first documented reference to Groundhog Day in America. Other references can be found in poems from England, Scotland and Germany. It is possible that the habit is just an example of the confusing results created by the use of two different calendar systems. The change of season in some of the ancient traditions has been marked in the days of the fourth quarter when the light of day advances significantly against the night, while in others it has been postponed until after the spring equinox when the light of day has passed the night. The hedgehog or marmot was incorporated as an arbitrator to regulate the two traditions. According to another theory, the increase in average temperatures to early February forces the marmot out of hibernation. In this case, the Groundhog Day would have been held later if the Germans had settled further north. The observation of marmots in central New Jersey, however, indicates that they leave their burrows in mid-March, regardless of the weather conditions on Groundhog Day.

Groundhog Day Celebrations

The marmot lodges in southeastern Pennsylvania hold social events as a way to celebrate groundhog day. Events are marked by the delivery of speeches, the supply of food and entertainment. The only language permitted during these celebrations is the German dialect of Pennsylvania. The offenders put a fourth, a penny or a nickel in a bowl placed in the center of the table as a penalty for each English word spoken.

Famous marmots

In the United States, Punxsutawney Phil is the famous meteorological marmot. Every February 2nd, thousands of people await its prediction from Gobbler’s Knob, near Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. In Canada, Shubenacadie Sam makes his weather forecast from Shubenacadie, Nova Scotia, while Wiarton Willie from Wiarton, Ontario. The two Canadian marmots differed in their predictions this year, with Shubenacadie Sam reporting a rapid spring, while Wiarton Willie agreed with his American partner, Punxsutawney Phil, who reported another six weeks of winter for the 2018 season.

Meteorological precision

Groundhog Day organizers say the rodent has a talent for predicting the beginning of spring with forecast accuracy ranging from 75% to 90%. However, a Canadian study conducted in cities 13 for a period of 30 to 40 indicates that the weather forecasts made on Groundhog Day were only accurate 37%. Records maintained after the 1887 almanac and StormFax show that Punxsutawney Phil gave accurate predictions only 39% of the time.

Similar customs

Orthodox Christians of Serbia celebrate the meeting of the Lord or Sretenje in February 15, which corresponds to February 2 in the Julian calendar. It is believed that this day will mark the end of winter bear dormancy. If the day is sunny, the bear will meet its shadow and return for another forty days of sleep. A cloudy day signals the beginning of the end of winter. Another similar celebration is the siebenschlafertag (seven dormant days), held in June 27 in Germany. It is believed that summer will be rainy if it rains in seven days of sleep.


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