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The History of Groundhog Day

VO: Rebecca Brayton
Groundhog Day is celebrated every year on February 2nd. On this day, we rely on a groundhog to predict whether or not we will have 6 more weeks of winter or if spring is on its way. Though the origins of this holiday are not clear, it is believed to have been influenced by the Celtic pagan festival Imbolc and the Christian holiday of Candlemas. The holiday's first celebration took place in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, and it is in this city where the Groundhog Day's biggest celebrations continue to occur. In this video, we learn more about Groundhog Day.

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On this day, we trust a rodent to predict the weather. Welcome to, and today we’ll be learning more about Groundhog Day.

February 2

Groundhog Day is celebrated annually on February 2nd. On this day, people use a groundhog to determine the length of the current winter season and the possible early onset of spring.

<4>Weather Prediction
This weather prediction is dependent on the day’s conditions: six more weeks of winter are on the way if sunshine causes the groundhog to see its shadow and go back into hibernation, while clouds and grey skies prevent the appearance of the groundhog’s shadow and result in spring’s speedy arrival.

Imbolc and Candlemas

The period between the winter solstice and spring equinox has been important throughout history. For instance, the Celts anticipated spring by celebrating the pagan festival of Imbolc. Some people believe Imbolc then evolved into the Christian holiday of Candlemas, which celebrates the Presentation of Jesus at the Temple and falls on the 2nd of February.


It was during the Middle Ages that Europeans began to rely on the shadows of hibernating animals as an indication of incoming weather. During the 17- and 1800s, German immigrants brought this belief to the United States and selected the groundhog as the chosen animal in Pennsylvania.


The first official celebration of Groundhog Day occurred in that state’s city of Punxsutawney in the late 1880s when several businessman and groundhog hunters of the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club watched the groundhog observing his shadow.


Though this holiday has since spread across North America, the biggest annual Groundhog Day celebrations remain in its place of origin, where a groundhog dubbed Punxsutawney Phil predicts the weather. Tens of thousands of people and countless media outlets visit the city during early February to participate in festivities that include music and food.

Gobbler’s Knob

For the actual ceremony, Phil is relocated to Gobbler’s Knob by his handlers, made up of a group of top hat- and tuxedo-wearing individuals called the Inner Circle.


Though the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club maintains that Phil is right up to 90 percent of the time, studies have shown the number is actually closer to less than 40 percent. This has done nothing to quell people’s interest and fascination with the groundhog’s forecasts.

Groundhog Day Movie

In fact, the holiday was given an even bigger boost following the successful 1993 comedy “Groundhog Day.” Set in Punxsutawney, the film also led to “Groundhog Day” being used as an expression for experiencing situations over and over again.

Pop Culture

From movies and TV shows to children’s toys, Phil and Groundhog Day have appeared in pop culture on numerous occasions.

Outside of North America

Though Groundhog Day is mostly observed in North America, other countries practice similar traditions. Some American states use other animals instead of the groundhog. Meanwhile, the Canadian city of Wiarton in Ontario is home to a popular festival based around a groundhog named Wiarton Willie.

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