Digging up the Dirt on Groundhog Day

In the rush of the New Year and the chaos of Valentines day, Americans seem to forget one of their most arguably unique holidays: Groundhog Day. Annually, Feb. 2 marks much more than the start of a new month. Feb. 2 is the day in which we, as a society let our favorite rodent meteorologist predict the future of the seasons.

Derived from the ancient Christian “Candlemas” in which candles represented not only how long, but also how cold the winter would be, Germans soon adapted this tradition. Exchanging candles for hedgehogs (yes- hedgehogs) the German settlers adapted this concept once again after reaching America and coming to the realization that a groundhog, also known casually as a woodchuck, and scientifically as Marmota monax, was much easier to come across than a hedgehog.

The not so allusive groundhog goes into hibernation in the late fall. While males wake in February with the intentions of finding a mate, they officially end their hibernation in March.

Apparently 1887 settlers were one of two things: bored out of their minds, or passionately curious about the weather. Either way, a group of groundhog hunters met under the establishment of the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club. The men not only deemed “Punxsutawney Phil” as the official groundhog, but the only one of his kind. While they men swore Phil was America’s “only true weather-forecasting groundhog,” many rodent predecessors have followed closely in his footsteps… or should we say paw-steps.

Areas of Northern America have gone as far as to title their very own furry forecasting friends, such as Birmingham Bill, Staten Island Chuck, and even Canada’s very own, Shubenacadie Sam.

Groundhog day, as strange as it may be, rose in popularity after 1993’s release of Groundhog Day the movie. Bill Murray stars as the leading role stuck in a seemingly never-ending cycle of repeating the same day over and over again. This plot familiarizes the idea of “groundhog day” in reference to repetition.

Whether you are familiar with the concept of Groundhog Day, or even Phil himself, we can give due credit to the holiday’s uniqueness, entertainment, and three-day celebration to ensue.