Groundhog Day

Why listen to a groundhog?

Most of us know the tradition of Groundhog Day. On Feb. 2, the legend goes, a groundhog that comes up out of its burrow to check the weather will go back inside if it sees its shadow, and winter will continue for six more weeks. But if the sky is cloudy and it casts no shadow, the harsh winter weather is over.

Punxsutawney, Pa., hosts the best-known Groundhog Day event, featuring “Punxsutawney Phil” (who gained fame in the 1993 film Groundhog Day), but other towns in Pennsylvania and Maryland hold similar celebrations.

Where does the legend come from? It may have origins in ancient European beliefs involving a badger or a bear as a weather forecaster, as well as the Pagan festival Imbolc, whose traditions point to a bear or a serpent as a herald of good or bad weather. In the United States, Groundhog Day can be traced back to 1841, when a Pennsylvania shopkeeper wrote in his diary that that Candlemas day (Feb. 2) was the day on which, “according to the Germans, the Groundhog peeps out of his winter quarters and if he sees his shadow he pops back for another six weeks nap, but if the day be cloudy he remains out, as the weather is to be moderate.”

So keep an eye out for the groundhog’s report, and dress appropriately.

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