Groundhog Day, a Canadian and American tradition, the day
that the groundhog, or woodchuck, comes out of his hole after winter
hibernation to look for his shadow; foretells six more weeks of bad
weather if he sees it; spring is coming if he cannot see his shadow
because of clouds; supposedly goes back into his hole if more bad
weather is coming and stays above ground if spring is near.
This tradition is from a old European belief that if it is sunny on
Candlemas Day, then the winter would remain another six weeks.
Candlemas Day was celebrated on February second and
commemorated the purification of the Virgin Mary. Candles
for sacred uses were blessed on this day.
It is uncertain if this belief dates to pre-Christianity,
however it was a common belief in many European
countries during the seventeen century. The Germans
started the belief of a hedgehog, frightened by his
shadow on Candlemas Day would foretell that winter
would last another six weeks. This belief came to
America during the eighteenth century with
German settlers. These settlers adopted the groundhog
as their weather predicator.
This lore grew popular in the United States during the late
eighteen hundreds due to the efforts of
Clymer H. Freas, a newspaper editor, and W. Smith
a American congressman and newspaper
publisher. They organized and popularized a yearly festival
in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. In which a groundhog named
Punxsutawney Phil was used to foretell how much longer
winter would last. This very popular event is still being held
and is called Groundhog Day. In Canada the name of the
groundhog that is used to predict the length of winter
is Wiarton Willy.
(SOURCE: COMPTON'S INTERACTIVE ENCYCLOPEDIA, 1995)
(SOURCE: WEBSTER'S NEW WORLD DICTIONARY, 1994)