So what’s the big deal about Ground Hog’s day? Well, for one thing, February 2nd is the midpoint between winter and summer, so that’s good news. After Saturday, Groundhog Day, we will be one day closer to spring than to winter. This, of course, is true regardless of whether or not the groundhog sees his shadow.
So how did the whole idea of Groundhog Day get started? In Germany as well as Great Britain, February second was used to foretell the weather, probably because it was the midpoint of winter. It was also when the earliest planting could be done. At any rate, the people there believed that the hedgehog came out of hibernation briefly on that day. If he saw his shadow, he would return to his burrow and winter would last for six more weeks. If he did not see his shadow, there would be an early spring.
When the Germans settled in the New World, they did not find hedgehogs, but there were lots of groundhogs, so they transferred this tradition to them. It is doubtful that a groundhog would choose a particular day to investigate the out-of-doors or that sunshine or shadow would have anything to do with a speedy return to the burrow.
Probably farmers, tired of the long winter and anxious to begin their planting, created this legend. At any rate, it made the groundhog, and particularly Punxsutawney Phil, famous for at least one day of the year
© Dorothy C. Judd
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