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History and origins of Groundhog Day

Origins of Groundhog Day
Posted at 5:36 AM, Feb 03, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-03 07:36:06-05

TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN-TV) — Every year, many Americans look forward to Groundhog Day to get some idea of how much hard winter weather is left before spring appears. On February 2nd, in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, all eyes are on a groundhog at Gobbler’s Knob. We wait for Punxsutawney Phil, the official groundhog prognosticator, to appear and find out if he sees his shadow or not.

The belief is that if the groundhog sees his shadow, we will have six more weeks of hard winter weather. If the groundhog does not see his shadow, hard winter is almost over and spring will soon be here. This year, Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow and has predicted six more weeks of hard winter.

Origins of Groundhog Day
The belief is that if the groundhog sees his shadow, we will have six more weeks of hard winter weather.

Even though winter across southern Arizona is pretty easy to take, it’s still fun to see what Punxsutawney Phil predicts. We do get our share of cold air during the winter months and, as we saw last week, we can even get some snow from time to time. This can have the sun-worshiping, warm weather loving fans quickly wishing for spring! According to Phil, we may have to wait a few more weeks this year. However, Phil doesn’t exactly have the best record of good accuracy. Just 39% accuracy dating back to 1887.

Origins of Groundhog Day
Punxsutawney Phil doesn’t exactly have the best record of good accuracy. Just 39% accuracy dating back to 1887.

Even though Phil’s forecasting accuracy may not be the best, this fun forecasting tradition has roots that go all the way to Germany. According to History.com, clergy would bless and distribute candles needed for winter. The candles represented the severity and how long winter weather would last. This tradition was known as Candlemas.

Later, the Germans decided to select an animal to predict the severity of winter. They selected the hedgehog and switched to groundhogs when they immigrated to Pennsylvania because groundhogs were more prevalent. Now, many cities throughout the United States have adopted their own groundhogs or other animals to predict the end of winter weather. However, Punxsutawney Phil still has the official word!

By the way, February 2nd became Groundhog Day because it is the midway point between the winter solstice and the spring equinox. By this time of the year, we are already noticing a big increase in daylight with earlier sunrise and later sunset times. We also notice how our average high and low temperatures start to climb again. Spring is near, but winter won’t give up easily! We’ll see what 2021 brings, but it appears spring is trying to make an early appearance across southern Arizona.