An Early Spring


The country’s—probably even the world’s—most famed groundhog has made his predictions one week ago for how this year’s seasons are going to play out. Punxsutawney Phil did see his shadow on February 2, which means that spring will supposedly be coming early this year.  Not only is Groundhog’s Day a popular holiday with surprising amount of fans, but it also has a very fascinating history. It has occurred every year since the late nineteenth century.

Most people think they know the entirety of Groundhog’s day—a bunch of strange men with strange hats lure a groundhog out of it’s den one morning in February and if the groundhog doesn’t see his shadow, then spring will come early, but if the groundhog does see his shadow, then spring will come a whole six weeks later than it’s supposed to. Of course, no one past the age of eight really believes in this kind of thing… at least anymore. Then why do people still look forward to seeing what little Phil has to say about the seasons every year? Mostly, is a matter of tradition.

The first Groundhog’s Day occurred in 1887 in Pennsylvania. The event was an annual tradition in Germany that German immigrants had brought with them when they settled in America. Back in Germany, there was a special day called Candlemas Day. This holiday stated that if the sun were to shine on Candlemas day, the day where priests would bless candles for the winter, then winter would continue for six more weeks. For some odd reason, the members of the church at the time decided they needed to expand on the holiday and chose an animal. They chose a hedgehog.

Of course, changes have been made to the traditional event as we currently use a groundhog instead of a hedgehog. Our famed groundhog, Phil, known by everyone around the United States, young or old, did not see his shadow this year despite seeing his shadow last year. Remembering how awful the winter was last year, maybe it’s a good thing that Phil had not seen it.

Apart from seeing his shadow every winter, Phil the groundhog has had a pretty eventful life. In 1986, he traveled to Washington D.C. to meet President Ronald Reagan. Then in 1995, he appeared on the Oprah Winfrey show. In 2010, angry People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) protesters used a robotic groundhog to predict the winter’s arrival. For all we know, this groundhog is going to become more famous as the years go on.

This century-old tradition is clearly still a big deal to most Americans and will be for years to come. Hopefully, Punxsutawney Phil was correct about having an early spring and it will start to warm up outside soon!