February 2 is Groundhog Day which is celebrated in Canada and the United States. According to legend, a groundhog emerges from its burrow at noon on February 2. If the sun is shining and the groundhog sees its shadow, it becomes frightened and returns to its hole to hibernate. That means winter continues for six more weeks. But if it doesn’t see its shadow, it remains outside because the worst of winter is over and warmer weather is on its way.
Here are a few fun facts about Groundhog Day:
- Groundhog Day has its roots in the medieval European tradition of Candlemas. On a day in early February, people would light candles to brighten up a dark season and watch the weather to see whether or not spring was on the way.
- At some point hedgehogs were also used to help predict whether spring would come early.
- Hedgehogs are not related to groundhogs. They have different hibernation patterns and are more likely to emerge from hiding in early February.
- Groundhog Day came to North America in the 19th century when German settlers living in Pennsylvania revived the tradition in their new home. Groundhogs became the stand-in for hedgehogs.
- The first official Groundhog Day trek near Punxsutawney, Pa. took place in 1888. Today its the hub of Groundhog Day activities, and Punxsutawney Phil is the most famous of the furry forecasters.
- Canada’s first Groundhog Day took place in Wiarton, Ont. in 1956. It came about because a local resident wanted to throw a party for his friends and thought Groundhog Day was the perfect excuse. The tradition has evolved and Wiarton Willie is now Canada’s leading four-legged prognosticator.
- The 1993 release of the movie “Groundhog Day,” starring Bill Murray, brought new attention to the occasion. The population of Punxsutawney, Pa. is about 6,000. After the movie’s release the number of people coming to town for Groundhog Day has been recorded at up to 30,000.
Judging by the mild winter weather Ontario has been enjoying lately, as well as the cloudy skies, it’s likely our furry friend will come out of his hole and winter will end much sooner than we expect.
Happy Groundhog Day!