Groundhog Day is a holiday the celebrates the way in which the groundhog reacts to its shadow. But are those furry little creatures psychics? On February 2, also known as Candlemas, the groundhog or woodchuck awakes from hibernation and comes out of the burrow in the ground it has been resting in. Like psychics, they then make their prediction of the weather for the next few months.
Tradition indicates that if the groundhog is frightened when it sees its shadow, it will return to its burrow to stay warm for six more weeks. If the animals doesn’t see its shadow due to cloudy weather conditions, it will stay above ground, which is a sign that spring is coming soon. Doesn’t seem much like their psychics does it?
The Groundhog Day tradition has European origins; it is believed that Roman legions spread the practice northward. Centuries ago, people depended on the badger’s behavior to determine when to plant crops. The badger is an animal very similar to the groundhog.
By the time British and German settlers brought the concept of Groundhog Day to the United States, the practice was not viewed as a reliable way to predict when spring would come. After all, the ritual was originated at a time when people only had natural signs as a means of forecasting the weather.
Because of the efforts of Groundhog Clubs, Groundhog Day is nationally recognized in the United States. State and local organizations also have a lot to do with the recognition of the holiday. Groundhog Day is also a media-friendly celebration, since most news stations provide coverage of a groundhog coming out of its hole in the ground, like little furry psychics, as a fun way to remind people of the significance of the day.
In the words of a Scotch poem: “If Candlemas Day is bright and clear, Come, Winter, have another flight; If Candlemas Day brings clouds and rain, Go Winter, and come not again.”
The poem gives the impression that the weather on Candlemas Day is more of the determining factor for how soon spring will come, as opposed to the behaviors of a particular animal. However, this German couplet suggests that the shadow of an animal points to how soon spring will come:
“For as the sun shines on Candlemas Day,
So far will the snow swirl until the May.”
If you want to literally celebrate Groundhog Day, you can observe the burrow of a groundhog or similar creature to see if the animal will emerge. You’ll find that there are several ways that the animal can come out of its hole–or several reasons why it may stay inside that have nothing to do with psychics.
Observing the groundhog’s natural habitat is also a great way to learn more about the signs in nature that farmers and ecologists pay special attention to and learning that they’re NOT psychics. The symbolism of the groundhog may help you to understand the cycle of nature–especially if you’re willing to endure to cold to wait for the animal to come up from the ground.
You can also learn more about the groundhog by drawing, painting, or taking a creative photo of the animal. Enhance the project by creating a 3D hole for your artistically rendered creature to come out of. When you place your project under a lamp, you can relive Groundhog Day any day without any groundhogs playing psychics!