The Groundhog Day- Its History
The earliest American reference to Groundhog
Day can be found at the Pennsylvania Dutch Folklore Center at Franklin and Marshall
February 4, 1841 - from Morgantown, Berks
County (Pennsylvania) storekeeper James Morris' diary..."Last Tuesday,
the 2nd, was Candlemas day, 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."
According to the old English
If Candlemas be fair and bright,
Winter has another flight.
If Candlemas brings clouds and rain,
Winter will not come again.
From Scotland :
If Candlemas Day is bright and clear,
There'll be two winters in the year.
Another variation of the
Scottish rhyme :
If Candlemas day be dry and fair,
The half o' winter to come and mair,
If Candlemas day be wet and foul,
The half of winter's gone at Yule.
From Germany :
For as the sun shines on Candlemas Day,
So far will the snow swirl until May.
For as the snow blows on Candlemas Day,
So far will the sun shine before May.
From America :
If the sun shines on Groundhog Day;
Half the fuel and half the hay.
The Roman legions, during the conquest
of the northern country, supposedly brought this tradition to the Teutons, or
Germans, who picked it up and concluded that if the sun made an appearance on
Candlemas Day, an animal, the hedgehog, would cast a shadow, thus predicting
six more weeks of bad weather, which they interpolated as the length of the
Pennsylvania's earliest settlers were
Germans and they found groundhogs to in profusion in many parts of the state.
They determined that the groundhog, resembling the European hedgehog, was a
most intelligent and sensible animal and therefore decided that if the sun did
appear on February 2nd, so wise an animal as the groundhog would see its shadow
and hurry back into its underground home for another six weeks of winter.
The passage from Germany, may be the
one most closely represented by the first Punxsutawney Groundhog Day observances
because there were references to the length of shadows in early Groundhog Day
Another February 2nd belief,
used by American 19th century farmers, was:
Groundhog Day - Half your hay.
New England farmers knew that we were
not close to the end of winter, no matter how cloudy February 2nd was. Indeed,
February 2nd is often the heart of winter. If the farmer didn't have half his
hay remaining, there may have been lean times for the cows before spring and
fresh grass arrived.
The ancient Candlemas legend and similar
belief continue to be recognized annually on February 2nd due to the efforts
of the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club.
If the sun made an appearance on Candlemas
Day, an animal would cast a shadow, thus predicting six more weeks of Winter.
Germans watched a badger for the shadow. In Pennsylvania, the groundhog, upon
waking from mid-Winter hibernation, was selected as the replacement. Pennsylvania's
official celebration of Groundhog Day began on February 2nd, 1886 with a proclamation
in The Punxsutawney Spirit by the newspaper's editor, Clymer Freas: "Today
is groundhog day and up to the time of going to press the beast has not seen
its shadow." The groundhog was given the name "Punxsutawney Phil,
Seer of Seers, Sage of Sages, Prognosticator of Prognosticators, and Weather
Prophet Extraordinary'' and his hometown thus called the "Weather Capital
of the World.'' His debut performance: no shadow - early Spring.
The legendary first trip to Gobbler's
Knob was made the following year.