Groundhog Day: What it Really Means

Media by Parker Grob.

With all of the major holidays like Valentine’s Day, St. Patrick’s Day, and Easter coming up, it is easy to forget about the one that falls just before them. Hunter Matthews, a Greenville University Freshman, was asked what he thought Groundhog Day was and he responded, “A day that determines how much longer winter is. I have never celebrated it though. I don’t know anyone who has attended the celebration in Pennsylvania either.”

But what is it really?

It all started in the late 1800s and still has the same meaning today as it did 133 years ago. Groundhogs will go into hibernation in the months of fall, and every year Canada and the United States celebrate Groundhog Day. February 2nd is the day that the groundhog comes out of hibernation, but what exactly does that mean? When the groundhog comes out of its hole on this day, it has two possibilities. It will either see its shadow and be scared, meaning there are six weeks of winter left, or it will not see its shadow, meaning the spring weather will come early.

cute prediction winner groundhog day super bowl 2014 - 8026830080
Help the Groundhogs Predict the Winner of the Super Bowl! 2014. Media by CHEEZburger.

How did it start?

Groundhog Day was originally a Christian celebration called Candlemas Day. This was the day that was the midpoint between the current winter and the spring that followed. So what exactly happened on Candlemas Day? Candles were used by clergy as they were blessed, and then passed around to the people. The part that has stayed the same for all these years is that if it was a sunny day, we would have a “second winter.” If it was cloudy, then spring was right around the corner.

How it’s celebrated today

Groundhog Day is said to be one of the most questioned days, as it is very obscure. Many question the significance of the day, but at this point it is tradition. Being said, it is still celebrated every year in western Pennsylvania. Local citizens and tourists gather around to see if Punxsutawney Phil will see his shadow. The main significance of it all aside from tradition is seeing if spring will arrive early.

Image result for groundhog day movie
Groundhog Day. 1993. Media by The Loft Cinema.

Why is it still popular?

Sure it is tradition, but why has it become more and more popular? Groundhog Day with Bill Murray is a movie that has made the term “groundhog day” become more and more talked about. This movie is based out of Pennsylvania as a weatherman is sent to the location of the Groundhog Day celebration. He eventually finds himself living the same day over and over with this repetitiveness coining the term “groundhog day” to mean something that happens over and over again. This movie’s success made it historically significant to those who have seen it, or even heard of it. The number of visitors to Pennsylvania on Groundhog Day have gone up due to the movie’s significance in people’s lives, as it is also on many people’s list of favorite comedies.

Did You Know?

Nearly 40,000 people show up to the Groundhog Day celebration in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania every year.

Pothole Pete is the groundhog’s name in New York.

Woodchucks and groundhogs are the same thing.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here