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What Really is Groundhog Day?

artwork+by+Stephanie+Carreto
artwork by Stephanie Carreto

artwork by Stephanie Carreto

artwork by Stephanie Carreto

Jenna Harper, Features Editor

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It’s early February, February 2 to be exact. You wake up to another frigid 55 degree morning. Though not pleased with the constant chill of winter, you pull yourself out of bed and check your phone. Then you realize something… Groundhog Day has arrived. You pray, with all your heart, that the silly rodent sees its shadow so everyone can finally shed their winter coats and embrace the blooming, and slightly warmer, season of spring.

   In all honesty though, what even is Groundhog Day? Where did it originate? And most importantly, why would one ever rely on a random vermin to predict the weather?

   According to the History Channel website, Groundhog Day takes its roots in old Christian customs, Candlemas Day, to be exact. “The clergy would bless and distribute candles needed for winter. The candles represented how long and how cold the winter would be.” From this practice, the tradition for predicting the weather took off. The Germans went on to expand this idea, putting the dependency of weather prediction on an animal (although they used a hedgehog, not a groundhog). Then, when German settlers came to America, they brought this tradition with them, but switched to the iconic groundhog, which  are abundant in this region of Pennsylvania (history.com).

   The first official Groundhog Day took place on February 2, 1887. According to the History Channel website, “On this day in 1887, Groundhog Day, featuring a rodent meteorologist, is celebrated for the first time at Gobbler’s Knob in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania.” That very same year, a newspaper run by groundhog hunters in Punxsutawney declared that Phil the Groundhog, was “America’s only true weather-forecasting groundhog.” However, across America, other names have been given to the mystical groundhog depending on the city. In Staten Island, the groundhog is known as Chuck, and in Birmingham he’s known as Bill  (history.com).

   The way Groundhog Day works, according to the official Punxsutawney Groundhog Club website, is “…the groundhog comes out of his hole, after a long winter sleep, to look for his shadow. If he sees it, he regards it as an omen of six more weeks of bad weather and returns to his hole. If the day is cloudy and, hence, shadowless, he takes it as a sign of spring and stays above ground” (groundhog.org).

   “I find it a weird, but amusing holiday. It’s not everyday people go crazy for a rodent and its shadow. I believe we see it as a way to look forward to spring and because groundhogs are cute,” said Senior Jay Hicks.

   Since the “holiday” made its way to America, it has gained more popularity, especially by way of the media in more recent times. It even has its own film! Groundhog Day came out in 1993, was directed by Mr. Harold Ramis, and starred Actor Bill Murray.

   But no matter what, winter will eventually come to an end, and spring will bloom… Let’s just cross our fingers and hope that Phil sees his shadow so that it happens sooner than later!

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What Really is Groundhog Day?