Every year on February 2nd, winter-hating Americans put their fate in the hands (paws?) of a certain furry creature. Everyone secretly prays that the famous groundhog doesn’t see his shadow, theoretically meaning we’ll have an early spring. Groundhog Day is certainly a unique tradition — but where does it come from? Why do we do it?
Groundhog Day always falls halfway between the first day of winter and the first day of spring, according to History.com. The day is important in a variety of traditions; a major one of which being the Celts (groups of people from various European countries from many hundreds of years ago). The Celts often observed the day as the pagan festival Imbolc.
Along with the rise of Christianity in Europe, Imbolc gradually became Candlemas, which was a feast celebrating the “presentation of Jesus at the holy temple in Jerusalem.” Many Europeans believed that if Candlemas happened to be a sunny day, there would be another 40 days (about six weeks!) of winter weather.
In Germany, people believed the day was only truly sunny if small critters were able to see their own shadows. The tradition stuck, and when Germans immigrated to Pennsylvania in the 1700s and 1800s, they kept it going. As Time.com adds, the Germans had an affinity for using a hedgehog, but when they arrived in Pennsylvania, groundhogs were more accessible in the area, so groundhogs became the official rodent of the day.
In 1887, as History.com also notes, a Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania-based newspaper editor named Clymer Freas came up with the idea to make Groundhog Day a ~thing~. He pitched the idea to a group of businessmen and — get this — groundhog hunters, who evidently were into it.
The group held the first official Groundhog Day ceremony at a place called Gobbler’s Knob, where the groundhog saw his shadow. And despite the bad, wintry news, the group decided to uphold the tradition every year since.
Since the tradition began in 1887, Punxsutawney Phil has seen his shadow approximately 103 times, according to the National Centers for Environmental Information. That’s a whole lot of winter.
And unfortunately for those who are already completely over the cold weather, the Groundhog Day 2018 results are in, Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow.
That means six more weeks of winter remain on the agenda. The tradition is cool and all, but we won’t mind if he’s wrong and spring comes sometime very soon.