Groundhog Day arrives every February 2nd and is celebrated in the United States and Canada. The official celebration takes place at Gobbler’s Knob near Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania where residents await Punxsutawney Phil. Other cities in the U.S. and Canada have Groundhog Day celebrations with their own resident rodents. The tradition expects the groundhog to foretell whether spring has arrived or if the residents will experience six more weeks of winter.

Various European cultures observed the actions of animals to determine when to plant crops. The Germans watched the badger and the English watched the hedgehog, which appeared around Candlemas, a Christian holiday, in early February. A popular English poem states, “If Candlemas be fair and bright, Come, Winter, have another flight; If Candlemas brings clouds and rain, Go Winter, and come not again.” Simply put, if the animal saw his shadow, he retreated back to the den in expectation that more winter would arrive. If the day was cloudy and no shadow appeared, the animal assumed spring had arrived and that it was safe to leave the den. When people from Germany settled in the Pennsylvania area, they brought the tradition with them and used the groundhog because there were no badgers in the area. One theory about the origins of Groundhog Day refers to the confusion in seasonal dates caused by the adoption of the Gregorian calendar over the Julian calendar that was inaccurate. The population of the Roman Empire, confused by the change in dates, trusted the animals instead of the calendar. The animals were more accurate in predicting when to plant crops. Farmers halved their winter provisions of hay and food at Candlemas to ensure that animals and family would eat until the arrival of spring crops.

In 1993, Bill Murray appeared in the movie “Groundhog Day” about a weatherman who experienced Groundhog Day over and over again until he learned his lesson and became a better human being. The term Groundhog Day has become synonymous with seeming to experience the same events over and over again.

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