The Big Deal About Groundhog Day

January 30, 2023

When it's halfway through winter, we all start to get a little antsy for sunnier days and warmer temperatures. That’s why for some, Groundhog Day is a big deal! Who wouldn’t want to look forward to a potential early spring (or at least prepare themselves for more cold ahead)? 

For our latest blog, we take a look at this weather predicting tradition to learn why so many people put their faith behind weather (haha) or not a groundhog sees its shadow on February 2nd.

To get a better understanding of Groundhog day, we have to take a trip back through time. 

February 2nd falls between the winter solstice and the spring equinox, holding significance in older religions and traditions. Originally The Celts celebrated Imbolc, a pagan fire festival that would mark the beginning of spring. Imbolc eventually evolved into Candlemas as Christianity spread, where clergy would bless candles and distribute them for the remainder of the season. 

In Europe, some Christians believed that if it was sunny on Candlemas, it meant that they would have more weeks cold and snow ahead. Germans took that tradition and made it their own by adding a few furry woodland creatures into the mix (and ground i.e. badgers, hedgehogs, hogs). 

In the German tradition, they said that the day of Candleman is only sunny if small animals glimpsed their own shadows, thus signifying an extended winter. They took this custom with them when they emigrated to the United States and settled in Pennsylvania, formally choosing the plentiful and native groundhog as their new weather predicting forecaster.

Groundhog Day was born!

The first official Groundhog Day was held on February 2, 1887 at Gobbler’s Knob in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania: the home of Punxsutawney Phil. His first prediction was 6 more weeks of winter and was mostly accurate. 

Fast forward to now, and the Groundhog Day tradition is still going strong. 

New contenders have since joined the weather predicting game, including New Jersey’s Milltown Mel who sadly died a few days before Groundhog Day 2022. But like Puxatawny Phil, a new Milltown Mel was born last summer and is slated to make his debut this week.

Essex County and Turtle Back Zoo even have their own groundhog named Essex Ed, but last year passed his tradition to his younger cousin Edwina. 

While Groundhog Day is a fun “holiday” that has spread outside of Pennsylvania, we have to wonder about how accurate has this weather predicting tradition been.

According to the National Climatic Data Center, Punxsutawney Phil’s success rate has been around 40 percent in the last decade. (We couldn’t find any real concrete numbers on New Jersey’s weatherhogs though.) 

Either way, this is a lighthearted tradition and is meant to sometimes give some light at the end of a wintery tunnel. 

Speaking of lights, if you have a business in New Jersey and need to upgrade your lights, we can help. 

Happy Groundhog Day!