Groundhog Day - Il giorno della Marmotta

How is Italy related to Groundhog Day?

The 2nd February  is a special date for many cultures, here in Italy, and in many other Christian countries, we celebrate the Candelora (Candlemas in English) also known as the Feast of the Presentation of Jesus Christ.
It is a Christian holiday commemorating the presentation of Jesus at the Temple.
This special day is also related to the end of winter; apparently the weather conditions on the 2nd could predict the weather for the following 40 days. Each Italian region has its own proverbs and traditions.
In Umbria you can hear "La Madonna Candelora dell’inverno semo fora, ma se piove o tira vento nell’inverno semo drento", but at the same time they have got "Per la Santa Candelora, se nevica o se plora dell’inverno siamo fora, ma se l’è sole o solicello siamo sempre a mezzo inverno" as well. Contrast among proverbs is very common, preventing the prevailing of one single tradition.

But in other countries the situation differs. The Canflemas is celebrated in all Europe in different ways and during the colonisation era these traditions were brought overseas and became very common in the US, adapting to the new environment.

Where does Groundhog Day come from?

The Groundhog Day derives from the Pennsylvania Dutch superstition that if a groundhog, emerging from its burrow on this day, sees its shadow due to clear weather, it will retreat to its den and winter will persist for six more weeks; if it does not see its shadow because of cloudiness, spring will arrive early.
The Dutch colonisers, who actually started the Groundhog Day's celebrations, used to rely on badgers for weather forecasts then switched to groundhogs, easier to find in the US.

The Groundhog Day today

Nowadays Groundhog Day is a popular celebration observed in the United States and Canada. Groundhogs are predicted for their weather forecast and entire cities live on the tourism generated by Groundhog Day.
The main ceremony is held at Punxsutawney in western Pennsylvania, centering on a semi-mythical groundhog named Punxsutawney Phil. Grundsow Lodges in Pennsylvania Dutch Country in the southeastern part of the state observe the occasion as well. Other cities in the United States and Canada also have adopted the event.

Why the tradition of the shadow ?

There are several possible explanations for how the shadow  tradition formed, and some of them have roots that pre-date 133 years of tradition in little Punxsutawney, Pa. – home of the most famous rodent meteorologist.

Here are a few possibilities on how the significance of the shadow came to be:

  • A proverb: Some Candlemas weather traditions were a warning against undue optimism. Essentially: "It might be sunny today, but don't get your hopes up."
  • Judgment day: Some Candlemas proverbs suggest the halfway point of winter on the calendar acts as a tipping point of weather. It is thought that  the  weather on 2nd Febraury  shows the weather for the previous six weeks of winter. so if was  cloudy, the previous winter days were cloudy and cold, and that the worst is over. If it's sunny,  then maybe the last six weeks were the better part of winter and the worst is yet to come!
  • The groundhog's prediction: This is a more contemporary explanation that gets repeated with little explanation. Groundhogs stay out of their den if it's cloudy and run back into their den if it's sunny. Obviously, if they're hiding in their den, they believe the coming days will be cold.
  • Spring weather: It is thought  early spring is often wet and rainy, so a cloudy day might be typical  of a spring-like late winter.

A funny tradition

No matter where you are or where you come from, apparently we all have a February tradition linked to winter's end. But we must agree that Groundhog day is for sure the funniest!

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