The History of Groundhog Day

How a Local Celebration Became a National Sensation



The Moment of Truth: Punxsutawney Phil is raised up by his handler for all to see, moments before his verdict, February 2, 2021.

          In the early morning of February 2, the entire nation will anxiously await a verdict declared by none other than Punxsutawney Phil. At approximately 7:25 am EST, the famous groundhog will either predict an early spring, or declare an additional six weeks of winter. 

          This is no new feat; the first Groundhog Day was held on February 2, 1887. Still, the tradition has evolved over centuries to be the holiday we cherish today. The original Groundhog Day celebration was rooted in pre-Christian traditions. Groundhog Day, in its most original form, was based on the Christian celebration of Candlemas. Candlemas was particularly popular in Europe; the church would distribute blessed candles, in representation of how long and cold the winter would be. 

          According to, “Christians believed that a sunny Candlemas meant another 40 days of cold and snow.”

          In the celebrations later days, Germans expanded the tradition, swapping candles for hedgehogs as a means for determining the weather. When they settled in Pennsylvania, hedgehogs were swapped for groundhogs.  

          While Groundhog Day is America’s more popular holiday, there are other localized traditions used in determining the duration of the winter season. One of which takes place in Vermillion, Ohio. In the autumn prior, locals turn to Woolly Bear caterpillars, noting their coloring. If the caterpillars are more orange than black, citizens believe there will be a shorter winter season. 

          Still, there is no questioning that Groundhog Day is the dominant tradition in the US. 

          According to, “you will find up to 30,000 in attendance and millions watching on television or via the web.” 

          Preparations for the 2023 celebration are already underway. While the majority of citizens tune in to the ceremony, some families have additional traditions of their own. 

          Senior Carolina Burcio and her family look forward to Groundhog Day every year. 

          “Me and my family always watch the movie Groundhog Day, and place bets on whether or not the groundhog will see its shadow,” says Burcio. 

          With this year’s celebration a mere few days away, it’s safe to say that communities throughout the country are perked up for Punxytawney Phil. The ceremony will be aired on several news stations, including NBC and FOX. Coverage will begin at approximately 6:30 am EST; don’t miss it!