Today is Groundhog Day. It is a holiday that focuses on the folklore idea of the groundhog (also known as woodchucks) coming out of its home to “predict” the weather. Legend has it that on this morning, if a groundhog can see its shadow, there will be six more weeks of winter. If it cannot see its shadow, spring is on the way.
Historically, Groundhog Day, has its roots in the ancient Christian tradition of Candlemas Day, when clergy would bless and distribute candles needed for winter. The candles represented how long and cold the winter would be. Germans expanded on this concept by selecting an animal (the hedgehog) as a means of predicting weather. Once they came to America, German settlers in Pennsylvania continued the tradition, although they exchanged the hedgehogs to groundhogs, which were plentiful in the Keystone State. In 1887, the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club declared that Phil, the Punxsutawney groundhog, was America’s only true weather-forecasting groundhog.
Groundhog Day is a non-federal holiday and has few traditions. The most significant traditions would involve visits to Pennsylvania and the observation of Groundhogs out of hibernation.