A holiday that most Americans pay no attention to is today, February 2 - Groundhog Day.  According to Groundhog.org, Groundhog Day became a tradition with German roots that started back in 1887 in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania and is celebrated with a big party to this day, drawing thousands each year.

Let's face it, it's something fun to focus on in the dead of winter when very little is going on and in Punxsutawney, it's quite the party no matter what the weather. During the celebration, a Groundhog King and Queen are even crowned!

How did this rather unusual "holiday" get starting? Groundhog.org says that the celebration all began when Christians would take their candles to the church to have them blessed on February 2nd. It was thought that by doing that, it would bring blessings to their household for the rest of the winter. Over time, it evolved into weather prognostication thanks to an English folksong...

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

It wasn't until this tradition made its way to Germany that the hedgehog became associated with the celebration. When German settlers came here, bringing their folklore of a weather-predicting hedgehog, the groundhog was traded in for the hedgehog since both animals similarly hibernate and there are no hedgehogs here.

So how did the "modern" version of Groundhog Day as a celebration end up in Punxsutawney?  It just so happens that in 1886, a mention of Groundhog Day appeared in the local newspaper there. The following year brought the first official trek to Gobbler's Knob and each year since, people come from all over the world come to join in the celebration, to find out if Punxsutawney Phil (the groundhog) will see his shadow or not. If he does, he gets frightened back into his hole to hibernate for six more weeks of winter. If he does not see his shadow, legend has it that Spring will arrive early.  "Early" is open to interpretation I think.

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So if you're wondering what Punxsutawney Phil had to "say" about when spring will arrive this year then here it is. The official word is that after seeing his shadow, six more weeks of winter can be expected. Of course, as Central New Yorkers, we are used to long winters and if Phil says there will be six more weeks of winter, we consider that an early spring so no worries there. Usually, winter doesn't end until halfway through April so anything before that is a bonus!

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