Groundhog Day: Will the Groundhog See His Shadow?

Groundhog Day Meaning, History, Folklore

Groundhog Day: Will the Groundhog See His Shadow?

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Will the groundhog see his shadow this year? What is the meaning of Groundhog Day—and why do we celebrate the weather predictions from a plump marmot?

When is Groundhog Day 2017?

Groundhog Day always falls on February 2. This traditionally marks the midpoint between the winter solstice and spring equinox.

According to legend, if a groundhog sees its shadow on this day, there will be six more weeks of winter; if it doesn’t, then spring is right around the corner. 

Of course, this refers wintry weather conditions. We like to joke, “If he sees his shadow, we’ll have six more weeks of winter; if he doesn’t, it’ll be six weeks till spring” because, of course, the dates of the equinox do not change. 

Groundhog Day Meaning and Origins

Groundhog Day has deeper meaning because it’s speaks to the triumph of spring over winter—and birth over death. Originally, this was a Celtic festival marking the cross-quarter day, or midpoint of the season. Read more about the ancient Celtic calendar.

The day was called Imbolc (lambs’ milk) because the lambing season began. It was also called Brigantia for the Celtic female deity of light, calling attention to the Sun’s being halfway on its advance from the winter solstice to the spring equinox.

The Christian church later called this festival of light, “Candlemas.” The English name refers to the candles lit that day in churches to celebrate the presentation of the Christ Child in the temple of Jerusalem.

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More Groundhog Day History

A bear brought the forecast to the people of France and England, while those in Germany looked to a badger for a sign. In the 1800s, German immigrants to Pennsylvania brought their Candlemas legends with them. Finding no badgers but lots of groundhogs, or woodchucks, there, they adapted the New World species to fit the lore.

Today that lore has grown into fun winter festivals, with Punxsutawney Phil and furry fellows in other states presiding. For all things groundhog, visit the folks at Punxsutawney and see what Phil is predicting this year.

How often has the groundhog really predicted the coming of spring? According to researchers, the groundhog has accurately predicted the coming of spring only 39 percent of the time (at the time of this writing). No matter what the percentage, it’s a fun time had by all!

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What is Groundhog Day’s Connection to Weather

Since the traditional celebration anticipated the planting of crops, a central focus of the festivities was the forecasting of either an early spring or a lingering winter.

Sunshine on Candlemas was said to indicate the return of winter. Similarly …

When the wind’s in the east on Candlemas Day,
There it will stick till the 2nd of May
.

  • It was not held as a good omen if the day itself was bright and sunny, for that betokened snow and frost to continue to the hiring of the laborers 6 weeks later on Lady Day.
  • If it was cloudy and dark, warmth and rain would thaw out the fields and have them ready for planting.

Our Groundhog Day is a remote survivor of that belief. Though we recognize animal behavior isn’t the only way to judge planting dates, the tradition continues, often with a wink and a smile.

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Live Groundhog Day Show!

This past year, we broadcast a live show celebrating Groundhog Day, courtesy of Slooh. Enjoy this video replay.

So, Will the Groundhog See His Shadow?

It depends if it will be sunny or cloudy on February 2! See your long-range predictions and, if Groundhog Day is less than 7 days away, see your local weather forecast for a more accurate answer.

The 2017 Old Farmer’s Almanac predicts that the 2017 winter weather will be much colder than last winter—but still above normal—in much of the eastern two-thirds of the nation. Most of Canada will have below-normal temperatures this winter, although Quebec and eastern Nunavut will have above-normal temperatures.

In our town of Dublin, NH, we are expecting plenty of Sun on February 2, 2017.  That would suggest that the local groundhog will indeed see his shadow and we might have a late spring in store!

More Groundhog Day and Candlemas Lore

If Candlemas [February 2] be mild and gay,
Go saddle your horses and buy them hay;
But if Candlemas be stormy and black,
It carries the winter away on its back
.

Just half your wood and half your hay,
Should be remaining on Candlemas Day

On Candlemas Day,
The good goose begins to lay
.

When the wind’s in the east on Candlemas Day,
There it will stick till the 2nd of May
.

On Candlemas Day, if the thorns hang a drop,
You are sure of a good pea crop
.

What is a Groundhog?

The groundhog, or woodchuck, typically makes its home in the brambles and thickets that grow where forests meet fields. There, it digs burrows between 4 and 6 feet deep and up to 40 feet long—removing as much as 700 pounds of dirt in the process. 

Like its squirrel relatives, the groundhog eats leaves, grass, flowers, bark, and twigs and climbs trees to reach tender buds or fruit. This furry animal will also go after just about any crop, favoring beans, peas, and carrot tops. It may even take a bite out of every squash or pumpkin in a row, instead of consuming just one. See how to deter groundhogs in the garden.

But the mischief-maker is not all nuisance. Its burrows allow air and water to penetrate the soil and, when abandoned, they become homes for opossums and other small animals. The groundhog itself serves as food for larger creatures, such as bobcats, foxes, and wolves.

With hungry predators on the prowl, it takes courage for a groundhog to emerge from its hole every February to make its forecast. It must take its job very seriously!

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