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Groundhog Day Trivia

Updated on September 2, 2012

February 2nd is Groundhog Day, and to honor Punxsutawney Phil, I thought I’d share a little trivia about this special day. We all know that if the groundhog sees his shadow, winter will last six more weeks, but I found a more details. Here are a few tidbits:

1. Groundhog Day began in the 19th century in America and Canada with Germans settlers and immigrants. It’s an old European tradition that originally used badgers or bears for the predication.

2. There is an old Celtic festival known as Imbolc which is similar and celebrated on February 1st.

3. The earliest American reference to it was from James Morris of Berks County, Pennsylvania on February 4, 1841. He wrote that on February 2 the local Germans celebrated Candlemas with the groundhog predicting the length of winter.

4. Local tradition and custom says that the accuracy of the predication is around 90%, but in reality it’s more along the lines of 37%.

5. The tradition is possibly derived from the collision of the Julian and Gregorian calendars around 1582 AD. The two calendars differ by a few weeks and one slowly overtook the other in Catholic countries over the next few hundred years creating confusion about farming dates and seasons.

6. The first official Groundhog Day was in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania on February 6, 1886. The celebration is still held there annually and is the largest one.

7. The following English poem seems to be an influence on the tradition in Scotland:

As the light grows longer.

The cold grows stronger

If Candlemas be fair and bright

Winter will have another flight

If Candlemas be cloud and rain

Winter will be gone and not come again

A farmer should on Candlemas day

Have half his corn and half his hay

On Candlemas day if thorns hang a drop

You can be sure of a good pea crop

Here in California, six more weeks of winter doesn’t seem to mean much. But it’s still another traditional day that is fun to celebrate. Happy Groundhog Day Phil!


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