February 2nd Is Groundhog Day

January 23rd, 2012 by Craig Mullins

February 2nd is Groundhog Day!!

About 90 miles northeast of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, at the intersection of Route 36 and Route 119, and halfway between the Allegheny and Susquehanna Rivers, sits Punxsutawney; originally a campsite settled by Delaware Indians in 1723.

– The name Punxsutawney comes from the Indian name for the location “ponksad-uteney” which means “the town of the sandflies.”

According to the creation myths of the Delaware Indians, they began their original existence as animals in Mother Earth, who then emerged from the earth centuries later to live and hunt as man. The groundhog was considered an honorable ancestor.

– The groundhog, which is also known as a woodchuck, is a member of the squirrel family.

– The name woodchuck comes from the Indian legend of “Wojak, the groundhog” considered by them to be their ancestral grandfather.

When Germans put down stakes in the area in the 1700s, they brought with them the tradition, Candlemas Day, which was celebrated at the mid-point between the Winter Solstice and the Spring Equinox. The belief on that day was that if the weather was fair, they would experience a cold and stormy second half of winter.

It was a custom for the early Christians in Europe on Candlemas Day to be visited by clergy distributing blessed candles to people and placing a lit candle in each of the home’s windows.

As the light grows longer
The cold grows stronger
If Candlemas be fair and bright
Winter will have another flight
If Candlemas be cloud and rain
Winter will be gone and not come again
A farmer should on Candlemas day
Have half his corn and half his hay
On Candlemas day if thorns hang a drop
You can be sure of a good pea crop

From this tradition grew a new custom in southeastern and central Pennsylvania in the 18th and 19th centuries.

One of the earliest written references to Groundhog Day in America on February 2nd was found in a journal entry by storekeeper James Morris of Berks County, Pennsylvania on February 4, 1841:

Last Tuesday, the 2nd, was Candlemas day, the day on which, according to the Germans, the Groundhog peeps out of his winter quarters and if he sees his shadow he pops back for another six weeks nap, but if the day be cloudy he remains out, as the weather is to be moderate.

– Crowds as large as 40,000 have gathered in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania to celebrate Groundhog Day every year since at least 1886.

groundhog day inner circle

According to www.Groundhog.org, a group of local dignitaries known as the Groundhog Club’s Inner Circle, is responsible for continuing the Groundhog Day celebration tradition. Not only is the group in charge of planning the events each year – during which they wear top hats – but they are also responsible for the care of Punxsutawney Phil.

– Phil’s handlers, John Griffiths and Ben Hughes, say Phil weighs 15 pounds and has a diet complete that includes dog food and ice cream. He also lives in a climate-controlled home at the Punxsutawney Library.

– Before Phil is put to work at 7:25am on the morning of Groundhog Day, he is placed in a heated burrow under a simulated tree stump on the Gobbler’s Knob stage.

– The University of Dallas in Irving, Texas, has taken Groundhog Day as its official university holiday and organizes a large-scale celebration every year in honor of the Groundhog.

– In 1993 a movie was made entitled Groundhog Day, which had more to do with embracing life than the festive day. It created a new love for Groundhogs and Groundhog Day.

Groundhog Day has become someone what of a National Holiday, but it has yet to officially receive federal status. Perhaps some day!

If you’re looking for some fun Groundhog Day souvenirs and gear, check out www.GroundhogStuff.com

groundhog day february 2nd

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