Saturday, February 4, 2023

The Origin of Groundhog Day


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By Pam Meyers 

Groundhog Day in Punxsutawney
Source: Wikipedia

By the time you read this, Groundhog Day 2023, will have passed, as does every February 2nd. I’m not superstitious and barely pay attention to whether or not the furry meteorologist of sorts saw his shadow that morning. But, I know some do pay attention and actually track how many times his predictions regarding the beginning of spring have been correct. 

So, how did this begin in the first place? 

Long ago, midway between the winter solstice and spring equinox, people became weary of cold, snowy days and yearned for spring. To find something to celebrate themselves out of the doldrums, the Celts began celebrating a pagan festival called Imbolc as a fun way to hurry spring along. It doesn't appear that a small gopher was involved. 

As Christianity spread, the festival lost its pagan connection, and the name was changed to Candlemas, which commemorated the presentation of Jesus at the temple in Jerusalem. The belief was if the day was sunny, small animals would see their shadows, and they would have another forty days of winter. The Germans added to the legend that if the day was sunny, only badgers saw their shadows. 

As Germans immigrated to America and settled in Pennsylvania, they took the tradition of Candlemas with them and chose the groundhog as the animal of choice to determine the weather forecast. 

 Most of us have heard about Punxsutawney Phil, the famous groundhog who makes his yearly appearance in Punxsutawney, PA on February 2nd,  He’s gained quite a following in recent years, thanks to the movie Groundhog Day, and many make a yearly trip to Punxsutawney to join in the fun. 

Even though the film was made in Woodstock, IL, and not Punxsutawney, the town of Woodstock, knowing a good thing when they see it, also began having a Groundhog Day festival. 

There is no scientific evidence to prove Phil knows anything about weather forecasting, and he probably has no idea what all the hoopla is about. I live a short distance from Woodstock, and regardless of whether or not Phil sees his shadow on Groundhog Day, we almost always have at least six more weeks of cold weather. 

Have you seen the movie Groundhog Day or attended a Groundhog Day festival?



Pam Meyers describes herself as a Wisconsin gal currently living in Illinois. Most of her books, both historical and contemporary, are set in her hometown area of Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. When she isn't nosing around Wisconsin for new story ideas, you can find her at home with her two rescue cats or serving at her church in various ministries. 


  1. Thank you for the post today. I haven't been to a groundhogs festival and if I saw that movie it was long ago. I tend to think of groundhogs as pests that ruin my garden so I'm not very inclined to celebrate them. I know, I'm no fun!

  2. Seems like a silly thing when the weather is different all over the country. I've never really thought much about it since Texas weather is so unpredictable. It was interesting to see how it all got started. I never saw the movie and have never attended a Groundhog Festival. Not sure I even knew there was a movie. :)

    1. It's the 20th anniversary of the movie! It's a cute and silly movie. Because it was filmed not far from me I was probably drawn to that more than anything when I first saw it.