Groundhog Day 2019

Groundhog Day History, Meaning, Folklore, and More

Groundhog Day: Will the Groundhog See His Shadow?

Did the groundhog see his shadow this year? What is the meaning of Groundhog Day—and why do we celebrate weather predictions from a plump marmot? Here’s all you need to know about Groundhog Day!

When is Groundhog Day 2019?

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

Year Groundhog Day
2018 Friday, February 2
2019 Saturday, February 2
2020 Sunday, February 2

Groundhog Day Meaning and Origins

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, it’s a bit of a joke. As the Almanac says, “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 has deeper meaning because it 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 had just begun. It was also called Brigantia for the Celtic female deity of light, calling attention to the Sun 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.


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 (also called woodchucks or whistlepigs), 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.

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!


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. 

Want to see more accurate planting dates? Check out our Gardening Calendar to find dates for starting seeds, transplanting, and harvesting in your area.


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, also known as a woodchuck or whistlepig, 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!

So, What Is The Weather Forecast?

For a forecast that’s more than folklore, see the Almanac’s long-range predictions or your 7-day weather forecast!

Reader Comments

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Favorite Holiday - Ground Hogs Day

Ground Hogs Day is my favorite holiday. No Stress Holiday. Something to look forward in celebrating the dead of winter. This date has been on the calendar long before Super Bowl.

Ground Hogs

So true...Ground Hog Day has been on the calendar long before the Super Bowl. While I do not celebrate Ground Hog Day...I think it is nice that you do. Food for thought for important traditions of long ago...(and NOT the super bowl)! Your comment is inspiring me to take the time to slow down, to pay attention to other traditions...some my mom taught me!
Thanks Virginia...continue to enjoy your day!