groundhog.jpgWhat do people do?
Many Canadians celebrate Groundhog Day by attending festivals, engaging in activities and reading or listening to news about groundhog appearances on February 2. Some Christian churches celebrate Candlemas on this day. Other people mark Groundhog Day as the date to take down their Christmas decorations.

Groundhog Day has attracted media attention over the years and its popularity continues to grow in Canada.  A festival is held in the town of Wiarton in Bruce County, Ontario, to honor Groundhog Day. The town has its own groundhog, Wiarton Willie, which it shares with the nation. Locals, fans and news reporters come out to “hear Willie’s prediction” early in the morning on February 2 each year. Other events at the festival include dances, contests, parades and pancake breakfasts.

Background
Thousands of years ago when animalism and nature worship were prevalent, people in the area of Europe now known as Germany believed that the badger had the power to predict the coming of spring. They watched the badger to know when to plant their crops.

This tradition was brought over to North America, predominantly in Pennsylvania in the United States, where it was the groundhog, not the badger, which makes these “predictions”. According to folklore, if the groundhog will sees its shadow on February 2 it will return to its burrow, indicating that there will be six more weeks of winter. If it does not see its shadow, then spring is on the way.

The Groundhog Day concept became popular in Canada in 1956 when Wiarton Willie became a household name for his early February “weather predictions”. Wiarton’s Groundhog Day festival grew as Willie’s fame increased. It became one of the largest winter festivals in Bruce County, Canada. The original Wiarton Willie was an albino groundhog that was around 22 years old when it died during the winter of 1998-99. Other groundhogs have replaced the original groundhog as the new Wiarton Willie.  Did you know Ontario’s groundhog is “Gary the Groundhog”?

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