Groundhog Day is February 2, but why?
Groundhog Day falls midway between the winter and spring solstice. People eager for spring to arrive wanted to know just how long they had to wait for warm temperatures. Like many of our American traditions, it was the German settlers who brought the idea of watching an animal on February 2 to determine if the animal saw its shadow. A sunny day was certain to mean there would be six more weeks of winter.
February 2 was known to ancient people as Candlemas. This was the day that the clergy blessed candles and gave them to the people to see them through the winter. The custom was to set the candles in the windows of one’s homes on this day.
For some reason Germans took to watching badgers on this day in an attempt to make a weather prediction. After all, animals should know, right? When the German settlers came to America, they decided on the native groundhog to watch.
Groundhog Day was first officially celebrated on February 2, 1887 in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. Germans settled in this area during the 18th century. I can’t help but wonder how long it takes a child to learn how to spell the name of the town they live in. Thank goodness for spell check!
Canada’s famous groundhog is named Wiarton Willie and lives in Bruce County, Ontario. He doesn’t look like the groundhogs we see eating along the side of the road, he is all white. He does predict like the various groundhogs around the U.S.
It’s amazing how blessing candles led to watching a groundhog on February 2. I never knew about Candlemas until I did a little research. I like the idea of candle blessing. That would make a dark winter’s night brighter.