Groundhog day is almost here, you know that much. But what happens if the groundhog sees his shadow? Is it more cold weather or warm weather soon, and does it even mean anything anyway? We break it down.
For the record: It might seem hard to remember what happens if the groundhog sees his shadow because, well, it doesn’t really make much sense — unless you know the root of the tradition, but we’ll get to that in a second. Although the tradition has been around since 1887 — yes, really, and credited to one newspaper editor — you can probably give the most thanks to Hollywood for the nationwide awareness of the holiday.
So, what happens if the groundhog sees his shadow?
The tradition claims that if the groundhog, in this case Punxsutawney Phil, sees his shadow the forecast calls for six more weeks of winter. If he does not, spring is rapidly approaching and we can all celebrate the end of the gloomy winter months.
But wait, if the groundhog does see his shadow, that means it’s sunny out. Wouldn’t that be more indicative that spring’s coming than if it’s overcast and he doesn’t see anything? Well, yes, but that’s where the tradition comes in.
Where did Groundhog Day come from?
The Groundhog Day tradition has its roots in Pennsylvania Dutch culture. In some German-speaking cultures, like the Pennsylvania Dutch, the badger is a forecasting animal, a belief that Punxsutawney Phil can thank for his cushy job. But some sources even credit this belief back to traditions surrounding Candlemas, a Christian Holy Day that falls on February 2. One of the superstitions surrounding this holiday is that clear weather on Candlemas means a drawn out winter.
In terms of making this Dutch tradition more widely recognized as an official holiday, however, that seems to be thanks mostly to Clymer Freas, the editor of the Punxsutawney Spirit paper. Some historians credit him as the “father” of the holiday, which was “officially” celebrated in the Pennsylvania town in 1887, one year after its mention in the newspaper.
But if you need to tell yourself that what happens if the groundhog sees his shadow is that he retreats back into his warm den, which is a sign of what you’ll need to do to get through those six more weeks of winter, we support you. That makes more logical sense anyway.