It was 1886 when Groundhog Day information first appeared in the local newspaper of Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. It was a year later that the first trek to Gobbler’s Knob took place, where visitors now travel to yearly to see if Punxsutawney Phil will see his shadow and declare six more weeks of winter. But where did the tradition come from?
Groundhog Day stemmed from a Christian holiday, in Europe, called Candlemas. The holiday, which was marked on February 2, was a day where Christians would take candles to a church to have them blessed. They believed the candles would bring blessings to their households for the rest of winter.
In time, Candlemas Day evolved and it became more about weather prognostication. When the holiday made its way to Germany, it was then that an animal was introduced to the tradition. The Germans used a hedgehog to predict the weather.
Similar to Groundhog Day now, if the hedgehog saw its shadow on Candlemas Day, winter would be six weeks longer. When German settlers came to the United States, another animal was chosen to carry out the tradition since there was an absence of hedgehogs.
That brings us back to 1886, when the tradition made its way to Punxsutawney. Today, Groundhog Day hasn’t changed since it first came to the United States and it has been celebrated every year ever since.
Fun Facts About Groundhog Day
-The famous groundhog is named Punxsutawney Phil.
-Phil wakes up from hibernation on Feb. 2.
-Even though Punxsutawney is the most well-known Groundhog Day celebration, more than a dozen states have their own.
-Georgia’s groundhog is named General Beauregard Lee and Ohio’s groundhog is Buckeye Chuck.
-The Punxsutawney groundhog’s full name is “Punxsutawney Phil, Seer of Seers, Sage of Sages, Prognosticator of Prognosticators, and Weather Prophet Extraordinaire.”
-Phil is “married” and lives with his wife Phyllis.
-Groundhogs hibernate through winter, but to make sure Phil is awake for Groundhog Day, Phil and his wife Phyllis are kept in an environment with enough light and heat to keep him awake for Feb. 2.
-Groundhogs typically have a lifespan of about six years, but legend has it that Phil is immortal. He has been making predictions for over a century. Phil gets his longevity from taking a sip of the “elixir of life” every summer at the Groundhog Picnic. It apparently adds seven more years to his lifespan.
-The inner circle is in charge of carrying out the Groundhog Day tradition.