The history of Groundhog Day


Alice Xie and Claire Chang

   Groundhog Day, held in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, is observed on Feb. 2 in the United States and Canada. 

   An unconventional holiday, many students may not be aware of the history and details of Groundhog Day. The Paw Print reached out to students and staff to gauge their depth of knowledge of this day.

   “All I know is that there’s a groundhog that comes out of the ground, out of its hole, and it looks at its shadow and when it sees its shadow, it gets scared,” explained West Ranch junior Haris Mian.

   Mian is on the right track. Although the groundhog, Punxsutawney Phil’s, scared reaction plays a part in his prediction, the main focus of the holiday is the celebration of Phil’s emergence from his hole. By tradition, if Phil sees his shadow due to clear weather, winter will persist, but if he is unable to see his shadow, an early spring will follow.

   According to, Groundhog Day originated from the ancient Christian tradition Candlemas, also known as feast of the Purification of the Blessed Virgin, in which candles represented how long winter would last. German immigrants brought the tradition to the United States, and altered the concept of candles to incorporate the groundhog.

   Sana Meher, a West Ranch junior, said, “It was founded in Pennsylvania, by some pastor. I think it has to do with when spring [comes].” According to, Groundhog Day was originally held at Gobbler’s Knob in the town of Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, where it was started by a local group called the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club, who were convinced to do so by local newspaper editor Clymer Freas. 

   According to, the second day of February was chosen as this day of celebration because the date falls between the winter solstice and the spring equinox, a time of year that has always been a significant time in many cultures. It was during this time in the Middle Ages that it was believed that animals such as badgers would stop hibernating and appear above ground. The idea of the badger was a precursor to the groundhog.

   AP World History and AP Psychology teacher Mrs. Povletich explained “that it happens in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, and if the groundhog sees its shadow, then it’s another six weeks of winter, and if it doesn’t, then it’ll be another spring.”

   Although Groundhog Day is an unfamiliar holiday for many, it seems that the students and staff at West Ranch have some basic knowledge on the procedures of the holiday. The tradition that was brought to the United States in the 1800s has continued to be celebrated year after year by many communities.