Feb. 2 celebrates an age-old tradition of looking towards a groundhog to determine the remaining length of winter. For some of us, the movie Groundhog Day, with Bill Murray, comes to mind. The movie features the groundhog Punxsutawney Phil, who is actually famous nationwide as being the one true weather-predicting groundhog since 1887, but the tradition of celebrating on Feb. 2 goes back centuries.
According to the Mother Nature Network, the holiday can be traced back all the way to the ancient Celts and their celebration of Imbolc. It was celebrated on Feb. 1, half way between the Winter Solstice and the Spring Equinox, and represented the welcoming of spring.
Although the tradition of Imbolc explains the reason behind the date, it still begs the question: why the groundhog?
The groundhog may be explained by the migration of Germans to Pennsylvania in the 1800s. Many Germans brought with them the tradition of using the hibernation of animals to predict upcoming weather patterns. Groundhog day became a centerpiece of Pennsylvania-Dutch culture, according to Berks-Mont News. Even today, there are dozens of “grundsau” lodges, or groundhog lodges, whose members speak the traditional Pennsylvania “Dietsch” dialect and are dedicated to preserving the legends of the groundhog.
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