Tuesday Feb. 2, 2021’s Smile of the Day: Groundhog Day

On this Day:

In 1887, In Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, the first Groundhog Day was observed.  Well, except it wasn’t.

The observance of Groundhog Day in North America first occurred in German communities in Pennsylvania, according to known records. The earliest mention of Groundhog Day is an entry on February 2, 1840, in the diary of James L. Morris of Morgantown, in Pennsylvania Dutch Country, according to the book on the subject by Don Yoder. This was a Welsh enclave but the diarist was commenting on his neighbors who were of German stock.

The first reported news of a Groundhog Day observance was arguably made by the Punxsutawney Spirit newspaper of Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, in 1886: “up to the time of going to press, the beast has not seen its shadow”. However, it was not until the following year in 1887 that the first Groundhog Day considered “official” was commemorated there, with a group making a trip to the Gobbler’s Knob part of town to consult the groundhog. People have gathered annually at the spot for the event ever since

Groundhog Day (Pennsylvania German: Grund’sau dåk, Grundsaudaag, Grundsow Dawg, Murmeltiertag; Nova Scotia: Daks Day) is a popular North American tradition observed in the United States and Canada on February 2. It derives from the Pennsylvania Dutch superstition that if a groundhog emerging from its burrow on this day sees its shadow due to clear weather, it will retreat to its den and winter will persist for six more weeks; but if it does not see its shadow because of cloudiness, spring will arrive early.

While the tradition remains popular in modern times, studies have found no consistent correlation between a groundhog seeing its shadow and the subsequent arrival time of spring-like weather.

The weather lore was brought from German-speaking areas where the badger (German: Dachs) is the forecasting animal. This appears to be an enhanced version of the lore that clear weather on the Christian festival of Candlemas forebodes a prolonged winter (per Wikipedia).

A groundhog’s scientific name (Marmota Monax), is likely derived from a Native American word for “the digger”. Today, most Americans refer to the animals as groundhogs. Yet, in British English, they’re referred to as woodchucks (per Terminix.com and Wikipedia)

The Groundhog Day ceremony held at Punxsutawney in western Pennsylvania, centering on a semi-mythical groundhog named Punxsutawney Phil, has become the most frequently attended ceremony. Grundsow Lodges in Pennsylvania Dutch Country in the southeastern part of the state observe the occasion as well. (per Wikipedia).

The day is observed with various ceremonies at other locations in North America beyond the United States.

Due to Nova Scotia’s Atlantic Time Zone, Shubenacadie Sam makes the first Groundhog Day prediction in North America. “Daks Day” (from the German dachs) is Groundhog Day in the dialect of Lunenburg, Nova Scotia.

In French Canada, where the day is known as Jour de la marmotte, Fred la marmotte of Val-d’Espoir has been the representative forecaster for the province of Quebec since 2009.  A study also shows that in Quebec, the marmot or groundhog (siffleux) are regarded as Candlemas weather-predicting beasts in some scattered spots, but the bear is the more usual animal.

Wiarton Willie forecasts annually from Wiarton, Ontario.

Balzac Billy is the “Prairie Prognosticator”, a man-sized groundhog mascot who prognosticates weather on Groundhog’s Day from Balzac, Alberta (per Wikipedia).

First, a Story:

What did Peppermint Patty say to Charlie Brown when they needed to start a campfire? Where’s the wood, Chuck?

Second, a Song:

Here is a musical tribute to America’s favorite weather-predicting groundhog, Punxsutawney Phil of Pennsylvania by Aaron Burnham.  I can’t find much info on Aaron but he has only started posting on YouTube in 2020.  I wish him every success!

This is a hidden gem on YouTube “Down in Old Punxsutawney” by Aaron Burnham. I hope you enjoy it. Bring on the spring!


Thought for the Day:

“Autumn arrives in early morning, but spring at the close of a winter day.” – Elizabeth Bowen


Have a great day!

Dave & Colleen

© 2021 David J. Bilinsky and Colleen E. Bilinsky

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