Other Scottish Country Dances for this Day
Today's Musings, History & Folklore
Groundhog Day, a uniquely American weather prognostication day which coincides with other special weather prediction days such the Pagan festival of Imbolc (the seasonal turning point of the Celtic calendar), and Candlemas Day, takes place on February 2nd.
The groundhog is a rodent in the family of large ground squirrels known as marmots. The groundhog has also been referred to as: Woodchuck, Whistlepig, Chuck, Wood-shock, Groundpig, Whistler, Thickwood Badger, Canada Marmot, Monax, Moonack, Weenusk, and the Red Monk.
According to traditional folklore, if it is cloudy when a groundhog emerges from its burrow on this day, then spring will come early; if it is sunny, the groundhog may see its shadow and retreat back into its burrow, and the winter weather will persist for six more weeks.
Modern customs of this holiday involve public celebrations where early morning festivals are held to watch the designated groundhog emerging from its burrow.
Groundhog Day was officially adopted in the U.S. in 1887 when an enterprising editor of a local paper in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, began promoting the town’s groundhog as the official “Groundhog Day meteorologist.” Today, the largest Groundhog Day celebration is still held in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, with the groundhog named "Punxsutawney Phil."
Weather prediction lore using the groundhog began as a transplanted European custom brought by the Pennsylvania German community who settled in southeastern and central Pennsylvania in the 18th century. Whereas in Europe, a hedgehog, a badger or sacred bear would be used as the prognosticator, the native groundhog served the same purpose.
Nowadays, there are many competing groundhogs purported to be able predict the weather.
For an incredibly long list of celebrity groundhogs, from "Balzac Billy" in Balzac, Alberta, to "Susquehanna Sherman," in Mount Wolf, Pennsylvania, click the the picture below of Punxsutawney Phil" and his entourage.