Today in Time: Why We Celebrate Ground Hog Day

It’s Groundhog Day

This morning, as has been the case every Groundhog Day for decades, thousands of people trek to what is the largest celebration — in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania — where Phil the groundhog makes his rightful appearance as the star meteorologist. He alone will determine if we hibernate (hide from winter) another six weeks, or start readying for spring. So, why do we really care if he sees his shadow (other than some great warm weather)?

The reason dates back nearly a century and a half. In fact, we have been celebrating this day since 1886, when farmers cared the most about whether or not the groundhog saw his shadow because they planned their  crop around the seasons Early spring meant they had to get right to work. New England farmers, called February 2 “Half-Hay” day because  by February 2, if they didn’t still have half their hay remaining to last the rest of winter (no matter what the groundhog saw), times could be tough for the livestock until  the green grass of spring sprouted.

So even to this day, we celebrate.  If the furry creature emerges from his burrow and doesn’t see his shadow due to clouds, folklore has it that  spring will come soon. If it is sunny and the  little critter sees his shadow, he retreats to his underground home to hibernate for another six weeks of winter. What happened today? Punxsutawney Phil, the most famous groundhog in America, and most of his fellow groundhog cohorts around the northeast, saw his shadow — meaning we will endure another six weeks of winter.


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