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Why is Groundhog Day Such a Big Deal?

Chris Hondros, Getty Images

It’s reported that the world’s most famous groundhog, Punxsutawney Phil, did NOT see his shadow when he was dragged out of his hole this morning in that small Pennsylvania town. Legend says that means we’re going to have an early spring.

Have you ever wondered why Americans make such a big deal out of Groundhog Day?  Where did that come from?

Every February 2nd crowds gather at Gobbler’s Knob, in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. A groundhog, Punxsutawney Phil, burrowed inside his heated simulated tree trunk, is about to thrust or be pulled into the limelight at about 7:25 am once again. The gates open at 3:00 a.m., followed by live entertainment, music and a pre-dawn fireworks display helps to ignite (hopefully not literally!) the crowd that has gathered in anticipation of Phil’s forecast. The awe-inspiring fireworks are set to lively music, which is just what the crowd generally needs on a cold rural Pennsylvania morning. Phil, and others like him, makes the most celebrated weather forecast of the year usually around the crack of dawn. Has spring sprung when Phil emerges from his burrow and doesn’t see his shadow? Or should he scurry back into his burrow for six more weeks of winter weather if skies are clear and fair?

Groundhog Day has its origins in an ancient celebration of a point mid-way between the Winter Solstice and the Spring Equinox. Superstition has it that fair weather was seen as forbearance of a stormy and cold second half to winter. The early Christians in Europe established the custom of Candlemas Day, when the clergy would bless candles and people would light them in each window of their homes to ward off the darkness of mid-winter.

via Groundhog Day.

Now you know. Phil says spring is near. So bring it on already.  The sooner the better.  Now. Today or tomorrow would be nice.

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