The Origins of Groundhog Day

by Kristina Mullen

February 2nd always rolls around with an unassuming air. It feels like just another gray, chilly day in Cleveland. At some point or another, however, you realize that it’s Groundhog Day! A day that holds little to no significance for most but a holiday nonetheless. It holds its roots in ancient European folklore. The legend tells the tale of a badger or sacred bear that can predict the weather. Additionally, it signifies the day on the Celtic calendar where winter begins to fade away. The Pennsylvania German’s adopted the tradition around the 18th/19th centuries. It fell on February 2nd, which also marks Candelmas day that celebrates the day when Jesus was taken to Temple for the first time as an enfant according to the Bible. The Pennsylvanians’ chose the groundhog to be their predictor of weather. If the groundhog came out of its hole and saw its shadow, six more weeks of winter would follow. But, if the day was cloudy and the groundhog did not see its shadow, more moderate temperatures were believed to be coming, signifying the end of winter and the coming of spring. Today, the largest Groundhog Day celebration is Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania where Punxsutawney Phil is the famous weather predictor. The town served as the inspiration for the film Groundhog Day. So whether or not you believe in the folklore of Groundhog Day, be sure to watch Buckeye Chuck (Ohio’s resident groundhog) and at least be comforted by the fact that spring break is inching closer!