Groundhog Day – February 2 – Folklore

Much of the country is covered in snow in early February, and many people have had enough of winter.  It is no wonder that a common question on Groundhog day is “will the groundhog see his shadow at Gobbler’s Knob on February 2?”Folklore has it that the groundhog is a good predictor of the weather. But how often has he really been right?

What does it mean if the Groundhog sees his shadow on Groundhog Day?

According to folklore, the groundhog is seen as a sort of weather predictor on February 2 each year.  Tradition tells us that, if the day is a sunny one and the groundhog sees his shadow, he will be scared and will retreat back into his burrow.  Then, winter weather will last at least another six weeks.  On the other hand, if the day is cloudy when the groundhog emerges from his burrow, this means that he will come out and spring will be early that year. 

Although several states have adopted their own groundhog for this day, the official groundhog is thought to be Punxsutawney Phil, who lives at Gobbler’s Knob near Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. Thousands of visitors have visited the town over the years to take part in the various groundhog festivities that take place there on February 2.

Groundhog day in Pennsylvania

Photo Credit: Aaron Silvers – Flickr

In Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, modern customs involve early morning celebrations to watch the groundhog emerge from its burrow as well as day long festivities where food is served, skits and plays are performed and, of course, Phil the groundhog is presented to the crowd as the weather is predicted.Groundhog in the sun

I can remember my parents talking about Groundhog Day in my home in the early days of my childhood, but the day seemed to get much more attention by the country when Bill Murray starred in the famous 1993 movie Groundhog Day. Murray played the part of a weatherman, covering Groundhog Day festivities in PA., who found himself in a time loop where the same day was repeated over and over.  

The tradition of Groundhog Day dates back to the time when early German settlers in Pennsylvania had a tradition that if the sun was shining on Candlemas Day (February 2) –  the snow would still be falling in May. Some early settlers even adopted groundhogs, which were plentiful in the area at this time, as harbingers of the weather. This poem tells us of the tradition:

If Candlemas be fair and bright,
Winter has another flight.
If Candlemas brings clouds and rain,
Winter will not come again.Groundhog eating a carrot

The current weather prediction for February 2 in Punxsutawney, PA calls for mainly cloudy skies and a slight chance of snow, but since Phil doesn’t always do what the weather man says he’ll likely do, who knows whether he will see his shadow on Groundhog Day or not?  

Groundhog day weather prediction

There are lots of fun facts associated with Punxsutawney Phil. My favorite is when Phil decided, during the prohibition years, that there would be 60 more weeks of winter if he were not allowed a drink!  

How often has Punxsutawney Phil been right in predicting the weather?   

Various reports say about 47% of the time. So, we might be as lucky finding out when spring will come by flipping a coin, but a groundhog sure is a cuter way to predict spring!Groundhog day cartoon

Since I love to garden I am cheering for Phil to come out of his burrow to very cloudy skies.  I’m ready for spring!  How about you?

Watch the groundhog make his prediction. 

You can watch Punxsutawney Phil make his announcement here, this year. Live coverage starts at 5 am Eastern time.

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