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I've never really thought that much about Groundhog Day until I started listing the holidays I was going to research. I mean, most everyone knows that if the groundhog sees his shadow, there will be six more weeks of winter.....right?? But how many people know how we came to celebrate this day?? And how many people know that the official groundhog actually has a name?? I didn't.

Groundhog day actually goes back to an ancient tradition called "CANDLEMAS DAY". Candlemas day fell on the second of February, which is halfway between the Winter Solstice and the Spring Equinox. "Superstition held that if the weather was fair, the second half of Winter would be stormy and cold.  For the early Christians in Europe, it was the custom on Candlemas Day for clergy to bless candles and distribute them to the people in the dark of Winter.  A lighted candle was placed in each window of the home."

There have been songs written about this custom:

(In England)

If Candlemas be fair and bright,
Winter has another flight.
If Candlemas brings clouds and rain,
Winter will not come again.

(In Scotland)

If Candlemas Day is bright and clear,
There'll be two winters in the year.

(In Germany)

For as the sun shines on Candlemas Day,
So far will the snow swirl until May.
For as the snow blows on Candlemas Day,
So far will the sun shine before May.

(In America)

If the sun shines on Groundhog Day;
Half the fuel and half the hay.

In Germany, a hedgehog was watched to see if it would cast a shadow. If it did, there would be six more weeks of winter.

When the early German settlers came over to America, they settled in what is now called the Pennsylvania Dutch country and they brought their custom of Candlemas with them. There weren't any hedgehogs in that part of the country, but they found that there was an animal that was already revered by the Delaware Indians for its wisdom - the groundhog.

Since the groundhog is a hibernating animal, it was chosen as a substitute for the hedgehog. The first official Groundhog day took place on February 2, 1886. A newpaper editor for the Punxsutawney Spirit named Clymer H. Freas started the idea when he recalled the German legend of the groundhog. And since it was his idea, he claimed that the only groundhog that would give a true weather prediction lived right there in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania.

He gave the groundhog the name of Punxsutawney Phil, Seer of Seers, Sage of Sages, Prognosticator of Prognosticators, and Weather Prophet Extraordinary. A somewhat grand title for such a humble animal. Freas gave him a home on Gobbler's Knob and invited all to come and watch the animal to see if he saw his shadow or not.

It became a tradition for everyone to make a trip to Gobbler's Knob every February 2nd watch Phil and still is celebrated every year in Punxsutawney. "Up on Gobbler's Knob, Phil is placed in a heated burrow underneath a simulated tree stump on stage before being pulled out at 7:25 a.m. to make his prediction."

(Quotes excerpted from Groundhog Day History From Stormfax)
(Picture from Groundhog Day History From Stormfax)

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