Unveiling the Truth About Groundhog Day: Myths, Folklore and Tales


Madeleine Pham

GO-PHER IT: a groundhog rises from its burrow to determine the coming season

Anna Cho, News Editor

Groundhog Day is an annual public observance that is celebrated on Feb. 2 mostly in North America, but contrary to most people’s beliefs, Groundhog Day is more than just celebrating furry rodents coming out of hibernation. 

Groundhogs receive about 15 minutes of fame each year until most people naturally forget about them for another 364 days. This tradition is a unique celebration in which people turn to these mammals to predict the coming of the equinox, which is the first day of spring. 

No one knows the true origins of this national holiday, but three different myths have been prominently passed down in folklore:

1) Punxsutawney Phil

The first myth of this long-celebrated American holiday comes from a Pennsylvania Dutch superstition. It is believed that if a groundhog emerges from its burrow on Feb. 2 and sees its shadow due to clear weather, it will return to its den and winter will continue for six more weeks; if it does not see its shadow because of cloud cover, spring will arrive early.

2) Candlemas Day

It is believed in Germany that Groundhog Day derives from Candlemas Day, the Christian feast day that announces the return of light, a symbol of protection and prosperity. In this interpretation, a sunny Candlemas Day indicates a long winter. 

“In Europe, the animal used was generally a hedgehog or a badger,” Stefan Sirucek said in the National Geographic. “According to this folklore, how the symbol ended up becoming the groundhog’s responsibility in the U.S. may have been a bit of a fluke.”

3) Farmers’ Folklore 

Lastly, the most practical one for field work is the farmers’ folklore that Groundhog Day means a lucky and efficient cropping season. It is an agricultural festival, where farmers expect good weather for planting and fishermen traditionally overhauled their boats on this day. It is traditional practice to predict the coming year’s weather and fortunes.

Despite each having their own variations, a common theme of agriculture and weather prevails in these popular myths. In honor of agriculture and a fruitful harvest season, we can celebrate Groundhog Day through a delicious tradition of making a homemade Dirt Pie with our family and friends.