February 2 is the day those of us in the northern climes of North America anticipate in a tongue-in-cheek sort of way. Will the groundhog see his shadow? Will winter end early or will we endure another 6 weeks of freezing temperatures, snow and ice?
What Does the Groundhog Have to Do with Spring?
The history of Groundhog Day in the US is traced back to Pennsylvania Germans during the 18th and 19th centuries. The groundhog, which the German immigrants thought to be quite similar to the European hedgehog, who would fortell the weather on Candlemas Day. The Germans would recite:
For as the sun shines on Candlemas Day,
So far will the snow swirl until the May.
The groundhog, being a sensible animal, would venture forth if he saw no shadow, which foretold an early spring. Seeing a shadow would cause the wise groundhog to return to his warm burrow for 6 more weeks of hibernation.
Where to Celebrate Groundhog Day in North America
The largest, and most well known event takes place in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. This location, made famous by the movie Groundhog Day, has held celebrations since 1886. Entertainments include live music, crafts and lots of food. Gates open at 3am for the trek to Gobbler’s Knob for Punxsutawney Phil’s Prognostication.
Quarryville, in Pennsylvania’s Lancaster County, is home to Octoraro Orphie, who has never been wrong in his prediction in the 103 year history of the Slumbering Groundhog Lodge.
Woodstock, Illinois is a late comer to the Groundhog Day celebration, after hosting the town square filming for the movie Groundhog Day. The first first prognostication on the square was held in 1999. The four day festival now includes a pancake breakfast, dance, walking tour of film sites, movie showings, and, of course, the prognostication.
In Lilburn, Georgia, General Beau Lee, Ph.D., lives in a groundhog sized mansion o the grounds of the Yellow River Game Ranch. He is awakened by the ringing of an antique bell and makes his way out for his annual state-of-the-winter report. ‘Beau’ is a very media savvy groundhog, and even handles his own twitter account.
The first North American groundhog to make a prediction each year is Shubenacadie Sam, at the Shubenacadie Provincial Wildlife park in Nova Scotia. After official proclamation by a town crier, there will be refreshments, hot cocoa and fun activities.
Wiarton Willie, the famous albino groundhog from Ontario, is celebrated every February 2 with a local Wiarton Willie Festival. Though the original Willie is now deceased, ‘Wee Willie’ oversees this celebration which features dances, parades, hockey tournaments, pancake breakfasts and a fish fry.
Whether or not you take part in this ancient tradition or dismiss it as mythic hooey, it’s always fun to see whether or not the groundhog knows more then our meteorologists.
Photo credit: Aaron Silvers, via WikiCommons, Creative Commons Share AlikeJody Halsted shares family travel tips
and destination recommendations at
Family Rambling. Her family enjoys
off-beat festivals and hopes to enjoy
the Woodstick, Illinios celebration
in the future.