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Groundhog Day in America: How Did It Start?

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Do you remember Bill Murray’s role in Groundhog Day? So, this is not a fiction, but a true holiday that is celebrated on February 2 and dates back to the days away from now. Its date has been chosen because it is nearly in the middle between the March equinox when the Sun lines up with the equator, and the winter solstice when the Sun is at the most southern point in the sky. So on this day, the day and night are almost of the same duration.

Facts about Groundhog Day

  1. Punxsutawney means “town of the sandflies”.
  2. “Woodchuck” comes from the “Wojak”, the Native American legend about the groundhog.
  3. The greatest celebration of Groundhog Day takes place in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, when nearly 40 thousand people come on the streets.
  4. In the movie Groundhog Day, the main character experiences approximately 10 thousand years. 
  5. In Texas, there is an Armadillo Day, where armadillo predicts the weather on February the 2nd.

Roots of Groundhog Day

It is similar to the Celtic celebration of the end of autumn, Samhain, also known as Samuin. There was another Celtic celebration that was a sign of the advent of the spring called Imbolg. Groundhog Day has a few common traditions and details with those holidays, but it is not clear if Imbolg was the direct ancestor of Groundhog Day.

During Imbolg celebrations, there were bonfires, purification, feasts, and divination practices. The weather was predicted by animals: serpents and badgers were supposed to show what the weather would be like. These traditions found their reflection in Gaelic songs. Different countries used various animals for such predictions. For example, in England, those were hedgehogs, while in France they were marmots.

Groundhog for America

Americans somehow decided that groundhog was the one to make weather predictions. The first Groundhog Day that we know of was celebrated in 1841 in Pennsylvania as noted by James Morris, who was a storekeeper in Berks Country.

So this is when and where the Groundhog day started.

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