Happy Groundhog Day! 

U.S. #2307 – Groundhogs are also known as woodchucks.

On February 2, 1887, the first official Groundhog Day event was held in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania.

However, the tradition dates back much farther to the Christian holiday known as Candlemas Day. Historically, on February 2, members of the clergy would bless and pass out candles for the winter. These candles represented how long and cold winter would be.

U.S. #2312 from the North American Wildlife sheet.

In Germany, Candlemas Day was expanded to include an animal – the badger – to predict the weather and was also known as Badger Day. The German lore stated, “If the badger sunbathes during Candlemas-week, for four more weeks he will be back in his hole.” In different areas, other animals were used for the same purpose, including bears and foxes.

Dutch and German settlers brought this tradition to America, where the badger was replaced by the more common groundhog (also known as the woodchuck). The first written record of Groundhog Day in America was on February 2, 1840, in the diary of James L. Morris of Morgantown, Pennsylvania.

However, the 1887 celebration is often considered the first official Groundhog Day in America. On February 2 of that year, a group of citizens went to the Gobbler’s Knob part of town to observe the groundhog for the first time. Local newspaper editor Clymer Freas is often considered the father of “Groundhog Day” and many believe Groundhog Day events in America began in Punxsutawney.

U.S. #2307 – Silk Cachet First Day Cover.

Reportedly, the first groundhog was named Phil, and the group that held the event in Punxsutawney claimed he was the only true weather-forecasting groundhog. In spite of this, several other towns have their own celebrations and their own groundhogs, including Birmingham Bill, Staten Island Chuck, and Canada’s Shubenacadie Sam.

U.S. #2307 – Fleetwood First Day Cover.

The Punxsutawney celebration is generally the largest, hosting as many as 40,000 people every year. As far as Phil’s accuracy, that’s up for debate. Over the years Punxsutawney groundhogs have predicted 103 extended winters and 17 early springs. One source claims he was accurate just 39% of the time. According to the Farmer’s Almanac, they’ve been accurate 50% of the time, while a team at Middlebury College states his long-term predictions were 70% accurate when measuring temperature highs and lows.

Russia #5554a – In Alaska, they celebrate Marmot Day on February 2 in place of Groundhog Day.

Click here to visit the Punxsutawney Groundhog Day website.

Click here to see what else happened on This Day in History.


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  1. My Grandfather had a saying, “Candlemas Day, half your wood and half your hay”. This was used as a guide at a time where many heated with wood and had farm animals for food. February 2nd was considered the half way point through winter.

  2. If nothing else it is good fun in the middle of winter. Let’s call it a diversion of sorts. Being from Buffalo N.Y. originally and now residing in Florida I take great pleasure in the results of “Phil’s” phorecast. I have a lifelong friend in the Buffalo area that celebrates the occasion with me, however I usually have more to celebrate than he does. For instance the temp was 14 when we spoke today. I responded that it was so cold here that we had to close the windows and bring the plants in. It is a tradition that has no credibility but national attention. Long live Phil and his reasonable facsimiles

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