Groundhog Day?

Is anyone else wondering how on earth we began the tradition of pulling a groundhog out of his hole and predicting future on whether the thing sees its shadow or not?

According to the official Web site of Phil the hedgehog:

The groundhog tradition stems from similar beliefs associated with Candlemas Day and the days of early Christians in Europe, and for centuries the custom was to have the clergy bless candles and distribute them to the people. Even then, it marked a milestone in the winter and the weather that day was important.

According to an old English song:

If Candlemas be fair and bright,
Come, Winter, have another flight;
If Candlemas brings clouds and rain,
Go Winter, and come not again.

Weather, sort of explained, but what about pulling vermin out of the ground? National Geographic answers that one:

Legend has it that the Romans also believed that conditions during the first days of February were good predictors of future weather, but the empire looked to hedgehogs for their forecasts.

These two traditions melded in Germany, and was brought over to the United States by German immigrants who settled in Pennsylvania. Lacking hedgehogs, the German settlers substituted native groundhogs in the ritual, and Groundhog Day was born.

So there you have it folks, Goundhog Day, the weirdest holiday celebrated in America.

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