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The History of Groundhog Day

It is believed that Pennsylvania is the homeland of Groundhog Day. However, this tradition has been brought to the USA by early Germans who settled in America long ago. On the 2nd of February, the marmot emerges from the den, and if people can see his shadow, it means six more weeks of winter. If the weather is cloudy and dismal, the rodent does not cast a shadow and stays above the ground, which means that it is going to be an early spring.

The Tradition Brought from European Countries

In Europe, this day was called a Candlemas Day. Before the Reformation, the Candlemas used to be a religious holiday, the Feast of Purification of the Virgin Mary when parents of Jesus Christ presented the baby in the Temple. The name Candlemas came from the tradition to bless candles on this celebration.

In the whole Europe, the 2nd of February was known as the weather predicting day, when the sun made the first stop towards the spring equinox. People believed that this day determined the upcoming weather. With this tradition, numerous superstitions emerged.

People were sure that six weeks after Candlemas Day the weather had to be the opposite to the weather on this day. For instance, if the sky was clear and the sun shining, people expected the following six weeks to be cold and snowy. Conversely, if the weather was cold, there were many clouds and people could not see the sun, they were sure that the winter was finally over and the spring would come very soon.

Animals and Weather Forecasts

Particular animals played an important role in this weather forecasting day. Many people were convinced that animals could actually predict the weather. For example, early Egyptians used bears for weather forecasting. When the Roman conquerors occupied the northern countries, their particular weather rites and customs passed to early Germans. People who lived in England used otters and badgers as predictors.

There was a medieval belief that animals that hibernate left their holes to look at the weather on the 2nd of February, predicting an early or late planting season. If the rodent came out and saw his shadow, people believed that planting would have to wait because of forthcoming cold weather. However, if the animal came out and did not see his shadow, the planting season would have to start soon.

In Germany, people believed that badgers forecasted the farmers planting season. However, when Germans settled in America, they found that badgers were not common there, especially in Pennsylvania. Thus, they transferred the weather belief to the groundhogs.



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