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Groundhog Day is an annual holiday celebrated on February 2 in the United Statesmarker and Canadamarker. According to folklore, if a groundhog emerging from its burrow on this day fails to see its shadow, it will leave the burrow, signifying that winter will soon end. If on the other hand, the groundhog sees its shadow, the groundhog will supposedly retreat into its burrow, and winter will continue for six more weeks. The holiday, which began as a Pennsylvania German custom in southeastern and central Pennsylvaniamarker in the 18th and 19th centuries, has its origins in ancient European weather lore, wherein a badger or sacred bear is the prognosticator as opposed to a groundhog. The holiday also bears some similarities to the medieval Catholic holiday of Candlemas It also bears similarities to the Pagan festival of Imbolc, the seasonal turning point of the Celtic calendar, which is celebrated on February 1 and also involves weather prognostication.

Modern customs of the holiday involve celebrations where early morning festivals are held 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, put into a bowl in the center of the table.

The largest Groundhog Day celebration is held in Punxsutawneymarker, Pennsylvaniamarker, where crowds as high as 40,000 have gathered to celebrate the holiday since at least 1886. Other celebrations of note in Pennsylvania take place in Quarryvillemarker in Lancaster Countymarker, the Anthracite Region of Schuylkill Countymarker, the Sinnamahoning Valley and Bucks Countymarker. Outside of Pennsylvania, notable celebrations occur in the Frederickmarker and Hagerstownmarker areas of Marylandmarker, the Shenandoah Valleymarker of Virginia, Woodstock, Illinoismarker, and among the Amish populations of over twenty states and Canada.

Groundhog Day received worldwide attention as a result of the 1993 film of the same name, Groundhog Day, which was set in Punxsutawney (though filmed primarily in Woodstock, Illinois) and featured Punxsutawney Phil.

History

Historical origins



An early American reference to Groundhog Day can be found in a diary entry, dated February 5, 1841, of Berks Countymarker, Pennsylvaniamarker storekeeper James Morris:

In the United States the tradition may also derive from a Scottish poem:

This tradition also stems from similar beliefs associated with Candlemas Day and Groundhog Day. Candlemas, also known as the Purification of the Virgin or the Presentation, coincides with the earlier pagan observance Imbolc.

Alternative origin theories

In western countries in the Northern Hemisphere the official first day of Spring is almost seven weeks (46-48 days) after Groundhog Day, on March 20 or March 21. About 1,000 years ago, before the adoption of the Gregorian calendar when the date of the equinox drifted in the Julian calendar, the spring equinox fell on March 16 instead. This is exactly six weeks after February 2. The custom could have been a folk embodiment of the confusion created by the collision of two calendrical 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 6 more weeks until the equinox.

Famous predictions and groundhogs

Groundhog Day proponents state that the rodents' forecasts are accurate 75% to 90%. A Canadian study for 13 cities in the past 30 to 40 years puts success rate level at 37%. Also, the National Climatic Data Center reportedly has stated that the overall predictions accuracy rate is around 39%.

WKBW-TVmarker meteorologist Mike Randall put it a different way: since there are always six more weeks of winter after Groundhog Day, and the concept of early spring in the astronomical sense simply does not exist, then whenever the groundhog sees its shadow and predicts six more weeks of winter, the groundhog is always right, but whenever it predicts an early spring, it is always wrong. The results have an approximate 80% rate of accuracy, the average percentage of times a groundhog sees its shadow.

Predictions by year

Date Prediction Groundhog
2009 Early Spring Queen Charlotte
2009 6 more weeks of winter Sir Walter Wally
2009 Early Spring General Beauregard Lee
2009 Early Spring French Creek Freddie
2009 6 more weeks of winter Buckeye Chuck
2009 6 more weeks of winter Balzac Billy
2009 Early Spring Malverne Mel
2009 6 more weeks of winter Woodstock Willie
2009 6 more weeks of winter Jimmy the Groundhog
2009 6 more weeks of winter Octoraro Orphie
2009 Early Spring Staten Island Chuck
2009 6 more weeks of winter Wiarton Willie
2009 6 more weeks of winter Shubenacadie Sam
2009 6 more weeks of winter Punxsutawney Phil
2009 Early Spring Dunkirk Dave
2008 6 more weeks of winter Punxsutawney Phil
2008 Early Spring Jimmy the Groundhog
2008 Early Spring Dunkirk Dave
2008 Early Spring Pat Lane
2008 Early Spring Balzac Billy
2008 6 more weeks of winter Sir Walter Wally
2008 Early Spring Wiarton Willie
2008 Early Spring General Beauregard Lee
2008 6 more weeks of winter Queen Charlotte
2008 Early Spring Malverne Mel
2008 6 more weeks of winter West Indies Wilbur
2008 Early Spring Shubenacadie Sam
2008 Early Spring Staten Island Chuck
2008 Early Spring Buckeye Chuck
2007 6 more weeks of winter Holtsville Hal
2007 6 more weeks of winter Dunkirk Dave
2007 Early Spring Punxsutawney Phil
2007 Early Spring Staten Island Chuck
2007 Early Spring Wiarton Willie
2007 Early Spring Shubenacadie Sam
2007 Early Spring General Beauregard Lee
2007 Early Spring Malverne Melissa
2007 Early Spring Buckeye Chuck
2007 Early Spring Spanish Joe
2007 Early Spring Sir Walter Wally
2006 6 more weeks of winter Dunkirk Dave
2006 6 more weeks of winter Punxsutawney Phil
2006 6 more weeks of winter Buckeye Chuck
2006 Early Spring Spanish Joe
2006 Early Spring Wiarton Willie
2006 Early Spring Fountains Hills Weasel
2006 Early Spring General Beauregard Lee
2006 Early Spring Staten Island Chuck
2006 Early Spring Shubenacadie Sam
2006 Early Spring Jimmy the Groundhog
2006 Early Spring Malverne Mel
2006 Early Spring French Creek Freddie
2005 6 more weeks of winter Dunkirk Dave
2005 6 more weeks of winter Punxsutawney Phil
2005 6 more weeks of winter Shubenacadie Sam
2005 6 more weeks of winter Spanish Joe
2005 6 more weeks of winter Octorara Orphie
2005 6 more weeks of winter Malverne Mel
2005 Early Spring Wiarton Willie
2005 Early Spring Jimmy the Groundhog
2005 Early Spring General Beauregard Lee
2005 Early Spring Balzac Billy
2005 Early Spring Staten Island Chuck
2004 6 more weeks of winter Punxsutawney Phil
2004 6 more weeks of winter Dunkirk Dave
2004 6 more weeks of winter Wiarton Willie
2004 6 more weeks of winter Spanish Joe
2004 6 more weeks of winter Balzac Billy
2004 6 more weeks of winter General Beauregard Lee
2004 6 more weeks of winter Malverne Mel
2003 6 more weeks of winter Punxsutawney Phil
2003 Early Spring Dunkirk Dave
2003 Early Spring Spanish Joe
2002 6 more weeks of winter Dunkirk Dave
2002 6 more weeks of winter Punxsutawney Phil
2002 Early Spring Spanish Joe
2001 6 more weeks of winter Punxsutawney Phil
2001 Early Spring Dunkirk Dave
2001 Early Spring Spanish Joe
2000 6 more weeks of winter Punxsutawney Phil
2000 Early Spring Spanish Joe
1999 Early Spring Punxsutawney Phil
1999 Early Spring Spanish Joe


Famous groundhogs





Groundhog Day 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.


  • 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.


  • The 1993 comedy movie Groundhog Day takes place in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvaniamarker, on this day (although the majority of the movie was actually filmed in Woodstock, Illinoismarker). The main character (played by Bill Murray) 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 popular culture, the phrase "Groundhog Day" has come to represent going through a phenomenon over and over until one spiritually transcends it.


  • The Sega Genesis game Sonic the Hedgehog 3 was released in the United States on February 2, 1994, dubbed "Hedgehog Day", a reference to the holiday. "Hedgehog Day" is also an episode in the Sonic the Hedgehog comic book.


  • In the episode "Next Question" of the children's animated show, As Told By Ginger, Carl and Hoodsey liberate the town's groundhog so they can sell scarves remembering their Groundhog, Pete. When the matter is investigated, a monkey, Mr. Licorice, is found in the hole and people think that he ate Pete.


  • In an episode of The O.C titled "The Groundhog Day," Seth Cohen and Che attempt to save the animal used on Groundhog Day in their town of Newport.


  • On January 9, 2006, the Pennsylvania Tourism Office presented installments of the Groundhog 202 film series, a Groundhog Day promotion that played off The Shining. The film shows what happens when the groundhog, stuck inside for 364 days, goes mad with cabin fever. On January 11, 2007, the Pennsylvania Tourism Office presented installments of the Groundhog Crossing film series, a Groundhog Day promotion that depicted the departure of the Shadow from his friend the Groundhog in an attempt to stop the cycle of winter predictions.


Similar customs

In Germany, June 27 is "Siebenschläfertag" (Seven Sleepers Day). If it rains that day, the rest of summer is supposedly going to be rainy. While it might seem to refer to the "Siebenschläfer" squirrel (Glis Glis), also known as the "edible dormouse", it actually commemorates the Seven Sleepers (the actual commemoration day is July 25).

In the United Kingdom, 15 July is known as St. Swithun's day. It is claimed that at one time it was believed if it rained on that day, it would rain for the next 40 days and nights. However, since the probability of such a protracted period of continual rain is virtually nil it is more likely that the belief was simply that the ensuing summer would be wetter than average.

References



Notes

  1. Yoder, p. i
  2. Cohen, p. 57.
  3. Yoder, pp. 49-52.
  4. Yoder, p. 43.
  5. Yoder, p. xii.
  6. Yoder, p. 9
  7. Yoder, pp. 19-28.
  8. Yoder, pp. 29-30.
  9. Yoder, pp. 30-31.
  10. Yoder, p. 31.
  11. Yoder, pp. 32-33.
  12. Yoder, pp. 33.
  13. http://www.awaketowoodstock.com/Groundhog%20Days.htm
  14. Yoder, pp. 14-15.
  15. History Society of Berks County, Reading, Pennsylvania.
  16. Groundhog Day, Margaret Kruesi. Journal of American Folklore. Washington: Summer 2007. Vol. 120, Iss. 477; pg. 367+
  17. Randall, Mike. GROUND HOGS DO NOT AGREE! On 6 More Weeks Of Winter?. WKBW-TV. 2 February 2009. Presented as such in the TV report but not in the online version.
  18. [1]
  19. [2]
  20. [3]
  21. [4]
  22. [5]
  23. [6]
  24. [7]
  25. Staten Island Chuck predicts spring is near. Staten Island Live news alert. 2 February 2009.
  26. Dunkirk Dave predicts early spring. Dunkirk Observer news alert. 2 February 2009.
  27. Limey, Franklin. Pat Lane Calls Early Spring Yet Again! Yankee Herald 3 February 2008.
  28. Zurcher, Neil (2008). Ohio Oddities 2nd Edition. Cleveland, OH: Gray & Company, Publishers. ISBN 978-1-59851-047-8
  29. Groundhog Day (1993)
  30. "The spiritual power of repetitive form: Steps toward transcendence in Groundhog Day." Suzanne Daughton, Critical Studies in Mass Communication. Annandale: Jun 1996. Vol. 13, Iss. 2; pg. 138, 17 pgs


Further reading

  • Aaron, Michael A., Brewster B. Boyd, Jr., Melanie J. Curtis, Paul M. Sommers, Punxsutawney's Phenomenal Phorecaster. The College Mathematics Journal, Vol. 32, No. 1 (Jan., 2001), pp. 26-29 doi 10.2307/2687216
  • Old, W. C., and P. Billin-Frye. The Groundhog Day Book of Facts and Fun. Morton Grove, IL: Albert Whitman, 2004.
  • Pulling, A. F. Around Punxsutawney. Charleston, S.C.: Arcadia, 2001.


External links






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