Why Do We Rely on Groundhogs to Predict Spring?

With the recent cold snap, the prospect of Punxsutawney Phil predicting six more weeks of winter on Groundhog Day is especially daunting.


Groundhog Day is on Saturday, Feb. 2 this year, and the recent Arctic temperatures are giving the day a bit more resonance than usual.

According to the myth, if a groundhog sees his shadow, there will be six more weeks of winter; if he does not, spring is right around the corner.

Last year, Pennsylvania's Punxsutawney Phil predicted six more weeks of winter while Staten Island Chuck called for an early spring.

Groundhog Day and other similar legends are based on the beliefs of Europeans, but the true origins of the holiday are lost in time. The day originated from the Germans, Scots and early Christian Europeans.

It is celebrated every year on Feb. 2. On this day, a groundhog comes out of its burrow and checks for his shadow to determine how soon spring will arrive.

Groundhog Day as we know it in the U.S. started because the Pennsylvania Dutch farmers wanted to know if spring was coming early or not. That information helped them decide when they should plant seeds and half their hay.

Europeans used hedgehogs as the animal that determined the season change but Pennsylvania Dutch farmers chose the groundhog because they were found in greater numbers in North America. Groundhog Day stemmed from the ancient traditions of Candlemas, a holiday that originated in early Christian Europe that was celebrated by the Germans.

In central Pennsylvania, there are a number of lodges that prognosticate the season with live and formerly live groundhogs. In Quarryville, Lancaster County, the Slumbering Groundhog Lodge predicts the season with the help of Octoraro Orphie, a stuffed groundhog.

There are other groundhog lodges, but the most well-known is in Punxsutawney, where the town holds celebrations as they wait for Punxsutawney Phil, the native groundhog resident of the town, to come out of his burrow and check for his shadow.

Tell Us: Do you think spring will come early this year? Share your opinion in the comments section below.

Dave Miller January 30, 2013 at 09:47 AM
Groundhogs could care less if they see their shadow or not. The reason they come out of their borrow is to see if any females are around and to see if any rival males are in the area. Whether they see their shadow or not is irrelevent...it's still 6 more weeks until Spring...no matter what.
Bob Logan January 30, 2013 at 12:09 PM
Why not rely on groundhogs....they cant do any worse than the TV weather-guessers. At least they don't say things like "we might possibly have a chance of a trace of snow flurries"---after teasing "snow in our forecast" for most of the broadcast
kevin January 30, 2013 at 07:51 PM
Because Katie Fehlinger is a lot easier on the eyes than Punxsutawney Phil.
Dave Miller February 04, 2013 at 01:06 PM
Yeah, but did you ever wonder why the weather (man) always gives forecasts in percentages (50% chance of rain) It's because on that particular day it's (rained) 50% of the time...since they've been keeping records of weather forecasts. What scares me the most is when the weatherman calls for "Flurries" I remember a forecast of calling for "Flurries" we got 2 feet of snow....Just saying.


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