Groundhog Day

Every February, thousands of people gather in a small Pennsylvanian town to take part in a centuries-old springtime ceremony.

One of the more eccentric traditions in the American social calendar, Groundhog Day is a term popularised by the 1993 film starring Bill Murray.

Bill Murray in the 1993 film Groundhog Day
( Bill Murray in the 1993 film Groundhog Day )

But unlike the classic comedy, Groundhog Day is nothing do with being stuck in a time loop and instead is a custom rooted in folklore and superstition.

So what is this unusual tradition and why do they celebrate it in Pennsylvania? Here’s everything you need to know.

What is Groundhog Day?

Crowds gather at Gobbler’s Knob in Pennyslvania each year to await the emergence of a groundhog named Punxsutawney Phil from its burrow

Punxsutawney Phil the Groundhog

Tradition dictates that if Phill leaves his hole and sees his shadow, he will return to his burrow and winter will continue for another six weeks.

However, if Phil doesn’t see his shadow because it’s too cloudy then the spring season will come early.

Unfortauntely, there isn’t much truth to this superstition.

When is Groundhog Day?

According to the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club, Phil will emerge from his hole on the morning of Saturday, February 2 – which is the same date every year.

The event is scheduled to last from 7.30am (2.30am EST) until 9pm GMT (4pm EST).

Last year, Phil emerged around 12pm GMT.

Where does Groundhog Day come from?

Unlike it’s celluloid counterpart, Groundhog Day is grounded in tradition, having been brought over to America by the Pennsylvania Dutch in the 19th century.

While it’s exact origins are unknown, some think its roots can be traced back to the German tradition of marking Candlemas as Dachstag – or “Badger Day”, in which a badger was used to predict the weather.READ MORETen films that ripped off Groundhog Day

The earliest mention of Groundhog Day was in 1840 and the first reported news in 1886 in the Punxsutawney Spirit newspaper.

But it wasn’t until 1887 when the day was finally considered an official event in 1887 after a group travelled to Gobbler’s Knob to consult the goundhog on the weather, where people have gathered ever since.

What is a groundhog?

A groundhog is a large furry rodent
( A groundhog is a large furry rodent )

Groundhogs are a type of ground squirrel similar to a marmot. They are also known as woodchucks.

They can grow up to 15cm tall and 50cm long and have thick claws that are especially adapted to digging, spending a lot of time in their burrows.

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