Feb
01
2007

Are you ready for GHD?

Looking for a shadow: Popular legend says the groundhog will come out of its hole to look for its shadow on Feb. 2. But what are the origins of Groundhog Day?
Looking for a shadow: Popular legend says the groundhog will come out of its hole to look for its shadow on Feb. 2. But what are the origins of Groundhog Day?
It’s coming. Are you ready for the big day? Do you have big party plans? Snacks and beverages ready? A big plasma TV hung on the wall of your den? Yes….tomorrow is Groundhog Day!

Many of you have probably seen the movie starring Bill Murray about the holiday or are at least familiar with the story behind the holiday – the groundhog’s quest to see its own shadow in order to tell us when spring will arrive.

But do you know how this custom started?

It dates back to ancient Celtic cultures. Feb. 2 was the “cross-quarter” point in the solar calendar, the halfway mark between the winter solstice and the spring equinox. Astronomically speaking, it’s the halfway mark of winter.

As Christianity became the dominant influence of Western Culture, Feb. 2 was designated to be the day that the young boy Jesus was presented at the temple, sort of like today’s rite of confirmation.

Further along the timeline, Feb. 2 was featured in a Scottish proverb about how to predict the length of winter.

Exactly where groundhogs came into the picture, I’m not sure. Biologically, they sleep in a deep hibernation from November to March.

So if you’re a groundhog in Minnesota or any other wintry northern clime, you’re probably not doing much celebrating this, or any other, Feb. 2.

Here are some interesting groundhog (or as they’re known in Minnesota: woodchuck) facts:

• They are the largest member of the squirrel family, weighing up to ten pounds or more, and measure only one and one-half feet long.
• They feed on green, leafy vegetation and on small grains. Garden plants are a favorite, much to the dismay of gardeners in our ever-expanding suburbs.
• The woodchuck is found in most Minnesota counties, usually at the edge of open woods and especially in hilly areas. It is diurnal and hibernates for about six months each year.

Happy Groundhog’s Day!!

Your Comments, Thoughts, Questions, Ideas

Liza's picture
Liza says:

Gene wrote "The science of...groundhogs?" and "The science of...Groundhog Day?" last year, in case you can't get enough groundhog trivia!

posted on Thu, 02/01/2007 - 5:14pm
MrScience's picture
MrScience says:

I could be wrong, but... IIRC, the holiday started in Europe as hedgehog day, then converted to groundhogs in America (where we have no hedgehogs).

-Jonah

"God grant me the company of those who seek the truth. And God deliver me from those who have found it."
-Isaac Newton

posted on Thu, 02/01/2007 - 5:27pm

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