Groundhog Day, Again!

A rich history surrounds the groundhog’s prediction for the rest of winter.

| January 30, 2009

It didn’t take long for a marmot and a movie to become part of America’s cultural lexicon, helping us learn more about Groundhog Day.

Punxsutawney Phil (say that three times fast!) is the most famous of the groundhog prognosticators, trotting out to predict the weather each February 2 in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. The 1993 movie, Groundhog Day , stars Bill Murray, spawned the notion that Groundhog Day means a repeating day, often with disastrous results.

The legend of Punxsutawney Phil began in the mid-1840s. The town was originally a campsite for the Delaware Indians, and they considered the groundhogs to be honorable ancestors. When German settlers came to the area in the 1700s, they brought with them the tradition of Candlemas Day. The day, midway between the Winter Solstice and the Spring Equinox, was customarily marked by clergy blessing candles and distributing them to the people to stave off the dark of winter. If the weather was fair, the second half of winter would be cold and stormy; if the weather was bad, then spring was just around the corner.

There are literary references in a number of cultures to Candlemas Day. For instance, the old English saying goes:

If Candlemas be fair and bright,
Winter has another flight.
If Candlemas brings clouds and rain,
Winter will not come again.


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