Thursday, February 01, 2007

Happy Groundhog Day

Groundhog Day is celebrated in the United States and Canada on February 2 each year. Tradition states that if a groundhog emerges from its burrow and sees its shadow on this day, winter will continue for six more weeks. If, however, it is a cloudy day and the groundhog sees no shadow, winter will soon end.

The irony of this is that Spring arrives approximately six weeks from that day anyway. Most likely, this began as folk humor, in the same vein as the old saying "six of one, half a dozen of another".

In any case, many people who look for any reason to celebrate, and who are also weary of the winter weather, find a bit of fun in the annual event. Several communities even have newsworthy events each year that typically feature groundhog characters that have been named for the occasion. Probably the most well-known of these characters is Punxsutawney Phil in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. Punxsutawney held the first Groundhog Day celebration on February 2, 1887. News reporters gather each year to document the festivities and to announce the pending weather verdict to the world.

Although Groundhog Day is celebrated primarily in the United States and Canada, its roots began in Europe. On that day, a Christian holiday called Candlemas, involved another animal and its shadow - the hedgehog. When the Pilgrims carried the tradition to America, they couldn't find a hedgehog, so they substituted the groundhog instead. And thus was born the Groundhog Day tradition.