Punxsutawney, PA….In Punxsutawney they celebrate the humble ground hog. That may sound crazy for most small towns but for them it is their town. This year on Gobbler’s Knob the prognosticating Ground Hog predicted an early spring.
From the official website…
“One holiday that brings thousands of people together from all over the world to celebrate the prediction of a furry forecaster.
What would you rather be doing in the middle of the night, in the middle of the winter in western PA? How about enjoying the ambiance of the brisk night air with thousands of new friends by your side, waiting for the Seer of Seers, Punxsutawney Phil, to make his prognostication sounds like a great thing to experience!
Whether Groundhog Day has been on your bucket list for years or it is your birthday, or if you just would like a reason to celebrate — Groundhog Day is the event for you.
The Christian religious holiday of Candlemas Day has become most commonly associated with the current celebration, but it’s roots are older than that. The celebration started in Christianity as the day, (February 2nd), when Christians would take their candles to the church to have them blessed. This, they felt, would bring blessings to their household for the remaining winter.
As time rolled on the day evolved into another form. The following English folk song highlights the transition to weather prognostication.
If Candlemas be fair and bright,
Come, Winter, have another flight;
If Candlemas brings clouds and rain,
Go Winter, and come not again.
This “interpretation” of Candlemas Day became the norm for most of Europe. As you can read, there is no mention of an animal of any kind in the preceding song. It wasn’t until this traditional belief was introduced to Germany that an animal was introduced into the lore, hence another evolution of February 2nd. If, according to German lore, the hedgehog saw his shadow on Candlemas Day there would be a “Second Winter” or 6 more weeks of bad weather. As German settlers came to what is now the United States, so too came their traditions and folklore. With the absence of hedgehogs in the United States, a similar hibernating animal was chosen. This leads us to yet another evolution in the legend and to present day Punxsutawney.
The First Celebration
In Punxsutawney, 1886 marked the first time that Groundhog Day appeared in the local newspaper. The following year brought the first official trek to Gobbler’s Knob. Each year since then has seen a steady increase in participation of the celebration from people all over the world.
Today, Groundhog Day remains what it was when the tradition first came to our shores and found its way to Punxsutawney. A day to take everything a little less seriously, and break up the winter monotony… at least for a little while!”