At least ever since the hilarious film with Bill Murray came out, everybody knows this traditional event which – usually only – takes place on February 2nd: Groundhog Day.
This cultural event is celebrated with festivals in different regions of the USA and Canada. Here, instead of a TV host, a small rodent does the weather forecast.
Watch the trailer of the popular film: “Groundhog Day” here.
The groundhog is lured out of its burrow for the first time in the year. If the sun is shining and the cute rodent sees its shadow, winter will last six more weeks. However, if it is cloudy and the groundhog cannot see its shadow, spring will soon arrive.
A GERMAN TRADITION
While Groundhog Day is a primarily Northern American festivity nowadays, the tradition originally comes from Germany. People in German-speeking areas celebrated the feast of the Presentation of the Lord, the Candlemas, on February 2nd. To go with the now longer days, the festival celebrated customs related to light.
Of course, farmers established many of these customs and the associated rules at the time. And so people in 1859 would say:
“If the badger sees its shadow at Maria Candlemas, between 11 a.m. and 12 noon, it has to stay in its den for four more weeks.”
The badger was widespread in Germany. Therefore, it became the animal that predicted the beginning of spring. In some other regions, it was also the fox or the bear.
HOW THE GROUNDHOG DAY CAME TO AMERICA
German immigrants eventually brought this custom to Pennsylvania. However, since there were no badgers there, people chose another winter sleeper. Hence the widespread, diurnal, and easy to spot groundhog became the mascot of that day.
Studies have not yet been able to prove any connection between the shadow cast and the beginning of spring. However, the old tradition has survived into the modern age. Nowadays the festivity is not about plausibility, but about the coming together of people. Its true meaning is found in the joyful expectation of the approaching spring.
It also shows that no matter what continent you live on, there is more that connects us all than divides us. In Germany, it was cloudy today, so that the badger and marmot could not see a shadow. We therefore look forward to an early start of spring and to bright sunshine.