It’s that time again! That’s right, it’s time to gaze towards the state of Pennsylvania and watch a little groundhog scurry out of its den. Because he’s being released to let the masses know when to expect a break in winter weather and how soon they will see the spring breezes flow.
A groundhog? Predicting the weather? That’s right!
Oh come on now, stop laughing. It’s tradition. It’s fun and who doesn’t feel the need for a little fun this far into winter? Come on. It’s time to read a little bit and learn something interesting about this enduring custom. Who knows? By the end of this chat, it’s likely that many more people will be anxiously counting down the days until the next Groundhog Day!
History of Groundhog Day
After getting its official start in 1887 in the United States of America, Groundhog Day has grown in size and scope from its rather humble beginnings. Even before it was official, though, there is record of this day being observed in the US as early as 1840 as recorded in a private diary. 1866 was the first time it was recorded in a newspaper.
The custom started out as a superstition among the Pennsylvania Dutch people, a group of German speaking immigrants who settled in the state in the 1700s and 1800s after fleeing religious persecution in Europe. The stories about the rodent weather predictions may have begun with German ideas regarding a badger
After the United States made the day an official holiday, Clymer H. Freas was the editor of the Punxsutawney Spirit, a local newspaper in Punxsutawney Pennsylvania. He began to herald the town’s groundhog as the official “Groundhog Day Meteorologist”. The branding certainly worked because when most people hear about this day now, who pops to mind? That’s right! It’s Punxsutawney Phil!
What many people don’t know is that there are countless other groundhogs who take this duty of predicting the weather just as seriously as Phil. People who live in the local area can probably share loads of stories about the little weather predicting rodents.
But how accurate are these furry weather people? Well, there is some debate over that but, for dear old Phil, the professionals say that he is correct about 39% of the time. Sadly, that means he isn’t correct even 50% of the time so the odds are probably more in favor of flipping a coin than with Phil. But still, it’s a fun tradition.
Now it’s time to think about ways to enjoy the celebrations surrounding Groundhog Day!
How to Celebrate Groundhog Day
Enjoying the observance of Groundhog Day can be loads of fun. It’s a great excuse to be creative toward the end of the winter months. Try out some of these ideas to get involved:
Know the FAQs about Groundhog Day
To celebrate the day, the first order of business is to get to know its finer points. Here are some FAQs to help in getting to know more about Groundhog Day:
- What exactly does Phil do and why is it important?Phil, the groundhog, doesn’t really have a big job. He simply comes out of his den and the sun does the rest.
- What does it mean if he sees his shadow? And why does this mean anything? Well if he sees his shadow or not predicts the breaking of winter and the start of spring. According to custom, if the groundhog casts a shadow meaning that it must be a sunny day) then everyone is in for another six weeks of winter weather.
- What if Phil doesn’t see his shadow? If Phil comes out and it is cloudy and the sun casts no shadow, then spring-like weather should be on its way. So, perhaps for some people, the trick is to wish for poor weather on Groundhog Day!
View Punxsutawney Phil on Television
To truly celebrate, set the alarm and wake up early, gather the children, make a hearty breakfast and settle in to watch the groundhog emerge from his little nest. Today, most morning news shows will carry the process live and with much pomp and circumstance. The program usually begins around 6:30 in the morning in Pennsylvania, which is Eastern Standard Time (EST), but many TV programs will show recorded snippets of the event throughout the day.
Watch Groundhog Day
This unique 1993 movie starring Bill Murray and Andie MacDowell is a romantic fantasy comedy that has gained a bit of a cult following over the years. It’s the perfect way to enjoy celebrating this day.
Join the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club
The biggest fans of Groundhog Day might like to become a part of the official club. Formed in 1899, the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club has been encouraging groundhog enthusiasts for over a century. Just hop on the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club website for more information on how to join.
Adults can join the club for a small annual fee to get access to a quarterly e-newsletter, a membership card signed by Punxsutawney Phil himself, and advanced notice of the events scheduled to happen in Punxsutawney in celebration of the next Groundhog Day.
Kids can join the Jr. Groundhog Club to receive a newsletter, certificate and membership card. An even more special club is the Phil’s Birthday Club, available only to those whose birthdays fall on February 2!
Make Plans for the Next Six Weeks
Once you know the result of whether or not Phil saw his shadow, it’s time to joyously make plans. This might include more skiing and snowmen or getting ready to look for those early blooming daffodils and roosting robins!
How do you think it will turn out this year? Are you ready for the change of season? When Phil pokes his little nose out of his den and lets everyone know what to expect, join in with everyone else with a hearty cheer!
Happy Groundhog Day!