This Is Why We Celebrate Groundhog Day

Find out why a shadow-seeking rodent is America's favorite weatherman.

This Is Why We Celebrate Groundhog Day

Find out why a shadow-seeking rodent is America's favorite weatherman.

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If you live in the U.S., odds are you’ll spend February 2nd hoping a furry rodent doesn’t see his shadow. Perplexing as it may be, Groundhog Day is one of North America’s most beloved traditions, with millions tuning in to see Punxsutawney Phil’s weather report each year. However, unlike celebrations like Thanksgiving and Christmas, the reason behind Groundhog Day is unclear to many of its celebrants. So, why do we worship a woodchuck’s weather predictions?

America has German immigrants to thank for this folksy tradition.

Groundhog Day falls on February 2nd each year, the same day as Candlemas. The latter is Christian celebration that takes place 40 days after Christmas, honoring the Presentation of Jesus at the Temple, when Jesus was brought to the temple in Jerusalem. In Germany, where as much as 70 percent of the population identifies as Christian, this holiday is widely celebrated. It’s also believed that if Candlemas falls on a temperate day, there’s more winter to come, but if the day is rainy or cold, the winter will be over soon.

In much of Germany, where badgers were once thought to be able to predict the weather, many people believed that the same rule applied. Bad weather meant spring was coming, but a mild day meant your angry oracle animal would go back into its hole, seeing another few months of winter on the horizon. The only problem for the German immigrants who brought this tradition to the States? Badgers aren’t nearly as prevalent in Pennsylvania as they are in Deutschland.

Instead, the area’s German residents adopted the groundhog—an animal plentiful in Pennsylvania—as its new forecasting pet. And today, we honor that furry little guy’s supposed meteorological prowess on February 2nd, better known as Groundhog Day. Unfortunately, even if Punxsutawney Phil doesn’t see his shadow, that doesn’t mean you can safely store your snow boots just yet. In fact, since 1969, Phil has only gotten the forecast right about 36 percent of the time. Luckily, when you’re ready to discover some actual animal accomplishments, the 15 Animal Species Miraculously Saved From Extinction are sure to fit the bill.

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