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Groundhog Day (Canadian French: Jour de la Marmotte; Pennsylvania German: Grundsaudaag, Murmeltiertag) is a traditional holiday celebrated on February 2. According to folklore, if it is cloudy when a groundhog emerges from its burrow on this day, then the spring season will come early; if it is sunny, the groundhog will supposedly see its shadow and retreat back into its den, and winter weather will persist for six more weeks.
Modern customs of the holiday involve early morning celebrations to watch the groundhog emerging from its burrow.
In southeastern Pennsylvania, Groundhog Lodges (Grundsow Lodges) celebrate the holiday with fersommlinge, 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.
Groundhog Day was adopted in the U.S. in 1887. Clymer H. Freas was the editor of the local paper Punxsutawney Spirit at the time, and he began promoting the townâ™s groundhog as the official "Groundhog Day meteorologist".
The largest Groundhog Day celebration is held in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, with Punxsutawney Phil. Groundhog Day, already a widely recognized and popular tradition, received widespread attention as a result of the 1993 film Groundhog Day.
The celebration began as a Pennsylvania German custom in southeastern and central Pennsylvania in the 18th and 19th centuries. It has its origins in ancient European weather lore, in which a badger or a sacred bear is the prognosticator, as opposed to a groundhog. It also bears similarities to the Pagan festival of Imbolc (the seasonal turning point of the Celtic calendar, which is celebrated on February 2 and also involves weather prognostication), and to St. Swithun's Day on July 15.
The first documented American reference to Groundhog Day can be found in a diary entry, dated February 4, 1841, by Morgantown, Pennsylvania, storekeeper James Morris:
Last Tuesday, the 2nd, was Candlemas day, the day on which, according to the Germans, 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.
From England, the poem:
From Scotland, the poem:
From Germany, the poem:
Alternative origin theories
In some western countries in the Northern Hemisphere, the 'official' first day of spring is almost seven weeks (46â"48 days) after Groundhog Day, on March 20 or March 21; in others, that date is traditionally the middle of spring, just as the solstice in June is midsummer day.
The custom could have been a folk embodiment of the confusion created by the collision of two calendar 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.
Another theory states that the groundhog naturally comes out of hibernation in central Pennsylvania in early February because of the increasing average temperature; under this theory, if German settlement had been centered further north, Groundhog Day would take place at a later date.
The largest Groundhog Day celebration is held in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, where crowds as large as 40,000 have gathered to celebrate the holiday since at least 1886. Other celebrations of note in Pennsylvania take place in Quarryville in Lancaster County, the Anthracite Region of Schuylkill County, and the Sinnamahoning Valley of Bucks County.
The day is observed with various ceremonies at other locations in North America, including Wiarton, Ontario, the Shubenacadie Wildlife Park in Nova Scotia, and the University of Dallas in Irving, Texas (which has what is claimed to be the second largest Groundhog celebration in the world).
Predictions of various groundhogs since 2008
According to Groundhog Day organizers, the rodents' forecasts are accurate 75% to 90% of the time. 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. According to the StormFax Weather Almanac and records kept since 1887, Punxsutawney Phil's weather predictions have been correct 39% of the time. 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."
In popular culture
At the end of Disney's 1930 Silly Symphonies short film Winter, Mr. Groundhog the Weather Prophet comes out of his hole to determine whether or not there will be more winter. At first, he does not see his shadow, but the clouds clear and his shadow appears, causing him to run back inside. At this point, the winds picks up again and winter continues.
Tex Avery's 1940 Warner Brothers cartoon Wacky Wildlife features a brief gag with a groundhog that peeks outside, then retreats into a burrow filled with high-tech (for the time) weather equipment.
The 1941 Woody Woodpecker short Pantry Panic portrays the groundhog as a weather forecaster, although in this case he forecasts the timing of the beginning of winter, not the end of it.
The 1947 Warner Bros. cartoon One Meat Brawl features Grover Groundhog singing the "Groundhog Song" with music by Carl W. Stalling and lyrics by Warren Foster.
In the 1979 Rankin-Bass Christmas TV special Jack Frost, a crucial plot point in the story involves Jack casting his own shadow on Groundhog Day for six more weeks of winter. At the end of the story it is revealed that the narrator (voiced by Buddy Hackett) is the groundhog.
"Groundhog's Day" appears as the second track from the 1990 album Frizzle Fry by the San Francisco area trio Primus. The song is set on Groundhog Day, from the anthropomorphic perspective of the groundhog. The song's theme deals with growth, perseverance, and fresh starts.
The 1993 comedy movie Groundhog Day is set in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania on this day. The main character is forced to relive the day over and over again until he can learn to give up his selfishness and become a better person.
In "Franklin and the Grump" from Franklin (Season 3, 2000), the character Mr. Groundhog was an anthropomorphic groundhog with a great interest in meteorology who didn't want to participate in Groundhog Day anymore because there were always those who were upset regardless of what he predicted. He "officially canceled" the holiday, but the title character told his friends and family about the problem and the entire community gathered to give him a day just for him. Mr. Groundhog was later featured as more regular character in the series.
In Disney's 2006 film Bambi II, Bambi accompanies his friends Thumper and Flower to go and see the Groundhog, whose shadow will foretell if winter will end soon.
The Man in the Moon is about to choose a new Guardian in the 2012 Dreamworks film Rise of the Guardians, and Bunnymund hopes that it is not the Groundhog.
A similar custom is celebrated among Orthodox Christians in Serbia on February 15 (February 2 according to the local religious Julian calendar) during the feast of celebration of Sretenje or The Meeting of the Lord (Candlemas). It is believed that the bear will awaken from winter dormancy on this day, and if it sees (meets) its own shadow in this sleepy and confused state, 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 a 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 SiebenschlÃ¤fertag (Seven Sleepers Day). If it rains that day, the rest of summer is supposedly going to be rainy. It might seem to refer to the "SiebenschlÃ¤fer" squirrel (Glis glis), also known as the "edible dormouse", but 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 that, if it rained on that day, it would rain for the next 40 days and nights.
The state of Louisiana also varies somewhat from the traditional Groundhog Day theme, as groundhogs are not indigenous to that area. Since about the late 1980s, Groundhog Day in New Orleans has been observed with T-Boy the Nutria, a coypu based at the Audubon Zoo. Since 1997 Pierre C. Shadeaux, also a coypu, has been the focus of "Cajun Groundhog Day" festivities in New Iberia. Because of Louisiana's subtropical climate, Pierre forecasts either a longer spring or an early summer, as opposed to the usual groundhog option of a longer winter or spring. Another Louisiana Groundhog Day tradition, in Shreveport, centers on Claude the Cajun Crawfish.
In Clark County, Nevada a similar tradition is observed with a Desert Tortoise named Mojave Max.
Several unforeseen incidents have involved animals handled during Groundhog Day events. During New York City's annual Groundhog Day event at the Staten Island Zoo on February 2, 2009, a groundhog named "Chuck" drew blood when biting Mayor Michael Bloomberg's gloved finger while Bloomberg was trying to lure Chuck out of his wooden shelter. Five years later, on February 2, 2014, Bloomberg's mayoral successor, Bill de Blasio, dropped "Chuck" (subsequently revealed to be Chuck's granddaughter, "Charlotte"), who seven days later died of "acute internal injuries". At the city's next Groundhog Day event on February 2, 2015, "Staten Island Chuck" walked out of a hutch that an elevator had lifted onto the stage of a portable Plexiglass-enclosed habitat, while de Blasio watched from six feet away.
During Sun Prairie, Wisconsin's annual Groundhog Day celebration on February 2, 2015, "Jimmy the Groundhog" bit Mayor Jonathan Freund's ear while being held by Jimmy's caretaker. The next day, Freund issued a proclamation that officially pardoned and absolved Jimmy "of any perceived wrongdoing and charges" under the city's ordinance. The proclamation stated that Jimmy had "created an international media sensation, thereby helping the world to learn more about our great City".
Cohen, H.; Coffin, T. P. (1987). The Folklore of American Holidays. Detroit: Gale Research. ISBN 0810321262. OCLC 14718697.
Yoder, Don (2003). Groundhog Day. Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania: Stackpole Books. ISBN 0811700291. OCLC 52542605.
Aaron, Michael A., Brewster B. Boyd, Jr., Melanie J. Curtis, Paul M. Sommers (January 2001). "Punxsutawney's Phenomenal Phorecaster". The College Mathematics Journal, 32(1):26â"29. doi:10.2307/2687216.
Old, W. C., and P. Billin-Frye (2004). The Groundhog Day Book of Facts and Fun. Morton Grove, IL: Albert Whitman.
Pulling, A. F. (2001). Around Punxsutawney. Charleston, S.C.: Arcadia.
Gobblers Knobb Punxsatawney's Mascot
Groundhog Day â" The Official Website of the Punxsatawney Groundhog Club
Groundhogstuff.com. The Official Punxsutawney Phil Souvenir Shop located in Punxsutawney, PA.
Short Punxsutawney Groundhog Day Documentary: "A Holiday for Everyone"
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