Groundhog Day: History of the Hog

Araya Jackson

The myths of animals awakening in certain seasons back in old ethnic cultures ties our present to the past, when nature actually influenced people’s lives.

Today particularly, a little rodent known as a groundhog influences people all over the United States, and in other countries as well.

This holiday stemmed from the similar belief that described Candlemas Day, which used to inhabit early cultures in Europe. Clergy would bless candles and distribute them to the people. The scripture of Candlemas Day read:

“If Candlemas be fair and bright, Come, Winter, have another flight; If Candlemas brings clouds and rain, Go winter, and come not again.”

Sounds pretty spot on, minus old men and candles, but now a rodent in a hole. My how the times have changed.

None the less, there’s actually quite a lot that goes into this holiday, specifically in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, where the original holiday celebration takes place. This is where Punxsutawney Phil, the original groundhog, lives and either sees his shadow or not. Groundhog Day is a whole day celebration there, with music, food, games and more. Not just something on television like it is for us here in Georgia.

There are so many myths and odd facts about the day, and groundhog Phil himself, here are some interesting ones to enjoy on this magical day:

1. What’s in a Name?

Groundhogs are the largest member of the squirrel family. They are also known as woodchucks. Punx. Phil is the only groundhog with a name as hefty as his, which in its entirely reads: Punxsutawney Phil, Seer of Seers, Sage of Sages, Prognosticator of Prognosticators and Weather Prophet Extraordinaire. Sounds like the extreme introduction for Queen Daenerys Targaryen. Such royalty.

2. Copy Cats

Phil isn’t the only animal humans listen to for the future weather forecast. Many states and countries have taken this holiday upon themselves and changed it to fit their specific region. In Linburn Georgia, we have General Beauregard Lee at Yellow River Game Ranch. Texas has Armadillo Day with Bee Cave Bob. Alaska has Marmot Day to represent their marmots and Alaskan culture. Quebec has Fred and Nova Scotia has Scubenacadie Sam, both groundhogs.

3. Immortality?

Though these giant squirrels only live about six to eight months, according to the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club website (yes this is a thing), Phil gets seven extra years of life every summer when he drinks a “magical punch”. If this year’s Phil is the same one from back in 1886, maybe it’s time he shares this special elixir of his.

4. Squad

Have you ever actually watched the event and noticed all the old dudes in top hats? These gentlemen are referred to as Phil’s “Inner Circle”. They are the top of the fan club, including the president, vice president and treasurer. They plan the events and care for the groundhog. Wow, what a job.

5. Science Dude

According to the HuffPost Green, February 2 falls right at the half point between the winter solstice and the spring equinox. Basically saying that this is the middle point of winter, and there’s always going to be around six more weeks of winter, regardless if Phil gets scared of his shadow or not. Sorry to rain on your parade guys. Cheers to more cold days in the Boro!