It’s Groundhog Day … It’s Groundhog Day … It’s Groundhog Day!

A few years back I had the opportunity to visit Punxsutawny, Pennsylvania, but I never saw a living groundhog. The home of Punxsutawny Phil, the town does not resemble the town depicted in the iconic film by the same name. I was disappointed. Nevertheless the town square displays a number of caricaturistic statues around its borders.

According to a signpost by the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, it was “as early as 1886 [that] German immigrants here observed Groundhog Day … According to folklore, if the hibernating groundhog—known as Punxsutawny Phil—leaves its burrow on February 2 and sees its shadow, there will be six more weeks of winter. The legend is based on a European custom predicting the length of winter by weather conditions on Candlemas, an ancient Christian festival.” In the old country, the tradition was based on a hedgehog that would either see its shadow or not. When the Germans settled in Pennsylvania, they continued this tradition of weather prediction by substituting the groundhog. The first official Groundhog Day was celebrated at Gobbler’s Knob on February 2, 1887.

This year while in Virginia I finally enjoyed my first groundhog sighting—in a parking lot! Too fast to snap a photograph, I only have the memory. I don’t know why these critters are so endearing but they are.

Genealogists & family historians are a lot like groundhogs—they come out from the libraries and archives long enough to assess if they’ll enjoy six more weeks of relatively uninterrupted winter research.

If not, it’s time to visit the cemeteries. :-)


[Groundhog Day Explained was created by C.G.P. Grey. Check out his website @]

Copyright ©2018 Lynn Broderick, a.k.a., the Single Leaf. All Rights Reserved.

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