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.
There are also other groundhogs in different parts of Canada. For example, Schubenacadie Sam is reportedly the first groundhog in the country to stick its head out on Groundhog Day. Other groundhogs include: Gary the Groundhog in Ontario, Brandon Bob in Manitoba and Balzac Billy in Alberta.
Whatever your traditions, enjoy your Groundhog day on Thursday, February 2nd!