Groundhog Day celebrated on February 2. According to folklore, if it is cloudy when a groundhog emerges from its burrow on this day, then spring will come early. If it is sunny, the groundhog will see its shadow and retreat back into its burrow, meaning winter weather will continue another six weeks.
The Groundhog Day is also very popular in Canada and Wiarton Willy is the Groundhog that is used to predict the length of winter over there.
There has been a concerted effort in popularizing and commercializing the Groundhog Day across the United States. Chuck Wood is The Committee for the commercialization of Groundhog Day's official mascot. The movie "Groundhog Day," has played a key role in popularizing the schedule of Events in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, on and around February 2.
Of course, the division of the year into segments is common to many cultures. Our ancestors were more aware of the sun’s movements across the sky than we are, since their plantings and harvests depended on it. In the ancient Celtic calendar, the year is also divided into quarter days (equinoxes and solstices) and cross-quarter days on a great neopagan wheel of the year. Thus, just as February 2 is marked by the celebration of Candlemas by some Christians, such as the Roman Catholics, in contemporary paganism, this day is called Imbolc and is considered a traditional time for initiations.
What you might not know is that Groundhog Day is really an astronomical holiday. It’s an event that takes place in Earth’s orbit around the sun, as we move between the solstices and equinoxes. In other words, Groundhog Day falls more or less midway between the December solstice and the March equinox. Each cross-quarter day is actually a collection of dates, and various traditions celebrate various holidays at this time. Feb. 2 is the year’s first cross-quarter day.
Punxsutawney held its first Groundhog Day in the 1800s. The first official trek to Gobbler's Knob was made on February 2, 1887. So the story goes, Punxsutawney Phil was named after King Phillip. Prior to being called Phil, he was called Br'er Groundhog.
The trail of groundhog history actually leads back to Clymer H. Freas, city editor of the Punxsutawney Spirit newspaper. In 1887, he was inspired by a group of local hunters and gourmets who held a groundhog hunt followed by a picnic barbecue of, well, you know. Anyway, Freas thought it so much fun that he wrote up the group as the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club and went on to promote the Punxsutawney Groundhog as the official weather forecaster. As he embellished the story year after year, other newspapers picked it up and soon everyone looked to Punxsutawney Phil for the critical prediction of when spring would return to the nation.
Also celebrated on February 2, the was used to commemorate the Purification of the Virgin Mary. Candles for sacred uses were blessed on this day. Gradually the traditions at this Candlemas came to associate with them different folklores.
Thousands of years ago when animalism and nature worship were prevalent, people in the area of Europe now known as Germany believed that the badger had the power to predict the coming of spring. They watched the badger to know when to plant their crops. By the time the first German immigrants settled in Pennsylvania they probably understood that this was not true but the tradition continued.
Unfortunately there were not many badgers in Pennsylvania so the groundhog substituted the badger. Tradition has it that if the groundhog will sees its shadow on February 2 it will be frightened by it and will return to its burrow, indicating that there will be six more weeks of winter. If it does not see its shadow, then spring is on the way.
Groundhog Day has its origins in an ancient celebration of a point mid-way between the Winter Solstice and the Spring Equinox. Superstition has it that fair weather was seen as forbearance of a stormy and cold second half to winter. The early Christians in Europe established the custom of Candlemas Day, when the clergy would bless candles and people would light them in each window of their homes to ward off the darkness of mid-winter.
Groundhog Day is a popular observance in many parts of the United States. Although some states have in some cases adopted their own groundhogs, the official groundhog, Punxsutawney Phil, lives at Gobbler’s Knob near Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. The town has attracted thousands of visitors over the years to experience various Groundhog Day events and activities on February 2. Many weather researchers questioned the groundhog’s accuracy in predicting the weather but some of the groundhog’s fans may not agree.