Did you know that 2 February has been the Groundhog Day for over 200 years? This holiday is pompously celebrated in Northern America, especially in the state of Pennsylvania.
On that day, several thousand people travel to Punxsutawney to observe the most famous groundhog in the world. There reason for it lies in a weather-related prophecy. It is believed that if the groundhog leaves its burrow on 2 Feb, sees its shadow and quickly goes back in, winter will last for at least 6 more weeks. If the animal does not see its shadow and is not too keen to hide again, spring will soon come.
Groundhog Day originated from the pagan mid-winter festival celebrated in Germany, where badgers or hedgehogs played the role of the animal that could predict the weather. Groundhog Day as we know it was first celebrated in 1887 among the German inhabitants of Pennsylvania.
The groundhog living now in Punxsutawney is called Phil. He lives in a heated burrow in a tree trunk on a hill. On 2 Feb, he leaves his warm lair and looks for its shadow. His forecasts are delivered to the gathered crowd by the Groundhog club representative – his message is, of course, translated from its groundhog language to English. In 2017, Phil saw his shadow and therefore predicted that winter will last for at least 6 more weeks. On that day, about 20 thousand people from across the country met in Punxsutawney to celebrate this holiday together and see Phil.
You can read the 2017 report and see a clip with the animal of the day right here:
Groundhog Day is celebrated by eating a meal together and speaking Pennsylvania German! Those that do not follow this custom have to donate money to a special bowl. This language is a mixture of various German dialects, such as Bavarian, Alemannic and Swabian. Less and less people can speak Pennsylvania German, so it is categorised as a moribund language.
Groundhog’s weather forecasts turn out to be true only in half of the cases, which does not account for high reliability (a coin toss gives a similar result). Nevertheless, Groundhog Day is a peculiar holiday, an opportunity to integrate society and gather funds for charity.
Unfortunately, we cannot translate from “groundhogish”, but you can count on our help in other language pairs – whatever the weather! 😉
[the above text has been inspired by the article “Dzień Świstaka” by Justyna Cilulko-Dołęga, our Scientific Customer Care Specialist, published in the Tropami Przyrody journal and the author’s website]
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