The fest that is Groundhog Day

Groundhogs Day

Hollywood, MD - No sooner have the Christmas decorations come down and the New Year’s Eve confetti swept up then along comes Groundhog Day. The date—Feb. 2—coincides with Candlemas. Like Halloween, Ground Hog Day is an “observance,” not a “holiday.” In locations like most Pennsylvania German communities, Irving, Texas and Quebec, Canada, it might as well be a day off from work. In those places, Groundhog Day is more than just a fuzzy time to observe everyone’s favorite weather superstition. Groundhog Day is a time to party.

Pennsylvania folk-life expert, the late Dr. Don Yoder, once did extensive research into the subject of Groundhog Day and discovered it possibly began as far back as 1840. About 47 years later, the most famous Groundhog Day observance began in the Punxsutawney area—Gobbler’s Knob. Today, the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club helps organize the festivities, which are highlighted by the announcement as to whether the celebrated rodent—Punxsuatawney Phil—has seen his shadow. The Gobbler’s Knob gathering is the most attended of all the Feb. 2 celebrations.

The second-largest Groundhog Day event is held at the University of Dallas in Irving. The private Catholic institution holds “Groundhog Week, with many events occurring this year on Saturday, Feb. 3. The agenda includes a Groundhog 5K race in the morning and the Groundhog Party in the Park in the evening. There is no indication the university conducts any ritual with a live groundhog.

In Quebec, the bilingual denizens observe “Jour de la Marmotte.” In New York City, “Staten Island Chuck” is the star of the Big Apple’s Feb. 2 observance. The town of Liburn, GA has its own groundhog named General Beauregard Lee. In Newport News, VA crowds gather on Feb. 2 to find out the shadowy prediction of Chesapeake Chuck. Last Feb. 2—for the first time—three Russian zoos held Groundhog Day observances.

Even in the Nation’s Capital—Washington, DC—Groundhog Day is marked by an appearance by Potomac Phil, who poses no danger to handlers since it is stuffed.
So what does all this rodent madness mean? If the groundhog sees its shadow, winter continues for another six weeks—around mid-March. If it doesn’t see its shadow, then spring will come early—like say, in another five weeks. According to Live Science, groundhog accuracy can vary by location. In Punxsutawney, Phil has been correct less than 40 percent of the time. Stay warm and enjoy Groundhog Day, wherever you decide to spend it.

Contact Marty Madden at

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