5 Things You May Not Know About Groundhog Day

One day. One small Pennsylvania town. One (likely very confused) rodent.
Groundhog Day is one of the quirkiest American traditions. Nestled between New Year’s Day and Valentine’s Day, this February 2nd event is indeed more of a tradition than a full-fledged holiday.

The “magic” of the festivities lies not in the pointy-toothed prognosticator it is based on, but rather in the weather which affects the ability to see his/her shadow. If the groundhog “sees” his shadow (an event determined by its human overseer), we are to assume winter will last six more weeks. If the critter is subject to cloudy skies and fails to notice its shadow, we are treated to an early spring.

But you likely already know all of that, so here are a few more facts about Groundhog Day you might not have heard about.

It’s a German Thing

It was a German folk belief that, if the sun made an appearance on the early Christian holiday Candlemas, a hedgehog would cast a shadow and likewise predict six more weeks of winter. After German immigrants moved in great numbers to Pennsylvania, they found the American counterpart to European hedgehogs: woodchucks, or groundhogs. The day has been a staple celebration in the town of Punxutawney, PA for over 130 years.

None of the Famous Film was Shot in PA

Many are familiar with the famed 1993 film Groundhog Day, starring Bill Murray. It’s what reignited interest in the holiday. But what these filmgoers might not realize is that the majority of the film was shot in Illinois, and none of the production took place in Punxutawney – or even in any part of Pennsylvania.

Canada Does – Alaska Does Not

Our neighboring nation of Canada celebrates a version of Groundhog Day, but our own state of Alaska passes it up. The Candians actually have a few rodents, including an albino critter named Wiarton Willie, Brandon Bob of Manitoba, and Balzac Billie of Alberta. Meanwhile, Alaska’s lack of groundhogs led the state to pass on the holiday. They do, however, have quite a few Marmots, and efforts in Alaskan schools are in place to teach children about the animal critical to the state’s economy for so long (no additional predictive powers added, though).

A Wide Margin of Error

The United States National Climatic Data Center concludes that Punxutawney Phil’s predictions are only correct about 40 percent of the time. In fact, when the groundhog predicts additional stormy weather, it typically ends up becoming sunny.

Translators Wanted

The “Inner Circle,” or the society which oversees the proceedings on the big day and the livelihood of the critter himself, claims that the rodent’s predictions are given in his native “Groundhogese” language. The communication is translated by the Inner Circle President, passed down to the Vice President, who then retrieves a scroll with the correct prediction written on it.

By CapeCod.com Staff

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