Ever Wonder How Groundhog Day Began?

Here's the story behind Punxsutawney Phil.

Groundhog Day Origin

Every February 2nd, a Pennsylvania groundhog named Punxsutawney Phil predicts the weather.

As tradition has it, if Phil sees his shadow, we’re in for another six weeks of winter. If he doesn’t, then spring is on the way.

Groundhog Day is a longstanding holiday on the North American calendar (Canadians also recognize the date) that might seem a little silly to some, but tradition is tradition. And if it makes people smile, all the better.

But what’s the Groundhog Day origin story, anyway? If you’ve ever wondered why thousands of people come to the small town of Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, each year (and tune in to watch it broadcast live on television) to find out if a groundhog will see his shadow, read on to learn more.

What’s the Groundhog Day origin story?

The very first Groundhog Day took place over 130 years ago on February 2nd, 1886.

Historians believe the holiday came from the Christmas tradition of Candlemas in Europe, when people would bring their candles (which represented a long and cold winter) to church to be blessed on the 40th day after Christmas.

Experts have also noted that the timing is linked to a seasonal turning point during the year, as it’s halfway between a solstice and an equinox.

As the tradition developed, people in Germany expanded on the symbolism of this time of year by selecting a hibernating animal — the hedgehog — as a way to predict the weather. And as more Germans immigrated to America, many of whom settled in Pennsylvania, they continued the tradition but switched from hedgehogs to groundhogs, who were more commonly found in the area.

At the end of the day, while there may not be many people who actually believe in the groundhog’s weather prediction, the holiday continues to serve its true purpose: It brings people together and is a source of laughter and entertainment during the long days of winter.

And it’s for that reason that Groundhog Day will most definitely live on.