February 2 every year in America, is dedicated to a weather indicating rodent - The groundhog. Groundhog Day is a peculiar day that in its own way, conveys if the winter is going to get extended.
As the responsibility of predicting the weather lies on the shoulder of this rodent, the name of this day is after it.
People look out for groundhogs on 2nd February and it is popularly believed that if the groundhog can see its shadow on this day, winter will continue for six more weeks. If not, it marks the coming of spring.
The Beginning -
Europeans are attributed to have brought this custom to America. People in Europe have been taking indications from many hibernating animals like badgers, bears and hedgehogs for centuries. The logic used was - if these animals come out hibernation, winter will not persist for long and spring is making its way.
During the 18th century, Germans who migrated to Pennsylvania began watching groundhogs to know about the weather. This day came to be celebrated on the same day as Candlemas Day in America. The first official Groundhog Day was celebrated on February 2, 1886 in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania.
It is based on the a Scottish legend that 'If Candlemas day is bright and clear. There'll be two winters in the year'.
Another old English poem says -
If Candlemas be fair and bright,
Winter has another flight.
If Candlemas brings clouds and rain,
Winter will not come again.
In the 1880s some people in Pennsylvania went about in search of groundhogs and soon the 'Punxsutawney Groundhog Club' was named after the seekers of groundhogs. Seeking groundhogs on this day became a custom since then. The first groundhog to predict an early spring was named 'Punxsutawney Phil'. He became the official groundhog to make the prediction and lived at Gobbler's Knob near Punxsutawney.
Though not a public holiday, Groundhog Day is observed on a very large scale. The grandest Groundhog Day celebration is held in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. People gather at Gobbler's Knob to witness groundhog Phil's emergence and prediction. In addition to this, people celebrate in the form of various events involving plays and musical performances. Speeches and festivities are common with this day.
Other groundhogs -
Other than Punxsutawney Phil, some states have their own official groundhogs to make predictions.
'Wiarton Willie' makes predictions in Canada while New York City's groundhog is 'Pothole Pete'.