This is when Groundhog Day falls - and why it is celebrated

Wednesday, 29th January 2020, 3:50 pm
Updated Wednesday, 29th January 2020, 3:50 pm

Immortalised in the 1993 film starring Bill Murray, Groundhog Day is fast approaching.

While it is a celebrated event and holiday in North America, many Brits love the film but aren't sure of the true meaning of the celebrations.

When is Groundhog Day?

Despite January seeming like the month that never ends, the day that won't stop is actually 2 February, which means this year's Groundhog Day falls on a Sunday.

Why is it celebrated?

The premise behind the Groundhog Day celebrations is actually a traditional weather prediction. People gather around the burrow of the Groundhog as it awakes from his winter hibernation, before sunrise.

If there are clouds in the sky as the animal emerges, then spring will come early. But, as the story goes, if it’s a clear sunny day then the groundhog will catch a glimpse of its shadow and run back into the burrow, and there will be six more weeks of bad weather.

Why does Groundhog Day happen?

Original records of this weird and wonderful celebration date back to the 19th century. The tradition has origins with the Dutch population of Pennsylvania, and stems back to Germany where badgers were originally used in the ritual.

Where does Groundhog Day take place?

Despite celebrations elsewhere across North America, Pennsylvania is still by far the biggest celebrator – with food, speeches and plays all happening on the day.

The most famous Groundhog Day, and the one shown in the film, is in the borough of Punxsutawney where Punxsutawney Phil, or just Phil as he’s known locally, is the area’s resident weather-predicting groundhog.

Phil spends 2 February in his temporary home at Gobbler’s Knob as residents gather round to wait for his decision on the weather.

The rodent has become a renowned figure, making appearances on the Oprah Winfrey Show, being beamed live to New York’s Times Square in 2001, and was the main attraction in an episode of the MTV series Viva La Bam in 2005.

Phil is looked after all year round by the Groundhog Club’s Inner Circle – a select group of members recognised by their signature top hats.

You can watch Groundhog Day live

If you can’t make it to Punxsutawney to watch Phil emerge from Gobbler’s Knob, then you can watch him live via the Groundhog Day website.