For our customers in the UK and the rest of the world, yes, Groundhog Day is a real thing in North America. It’s actually a brilliant example of how something that’s folklore can become famous and part of modern vernacular through marketing and popular media.
How it started
Groundhog Day has its roots in the ancient Christian tradition of Candlemas, when clergy would bless and distribute candles needed for winter. The candles represented how long and cold the winter would be. In German folklore it was a hedgehog that used to predict the weather on Candlemas. When German settlers moved to Pennsylvania, they ‘adopted’ the Groundhog as the weather forecaster.
According to tradition, a groundhog can predict six more weeks of winter weather if it can see its shadow (it gets scared and runs back into its burrow) or if it has no shadow, then allegedly spring is on its way.
In 1887, in a brilliant piece of marketing that put a little place in Pennsylvania on the global map forever, a local newspaper editor in Punxsutawney declared that Phil, the Punxsutawney Groundhog, was America’s only true weather-forecasting groundhog. Even though Phil’s forecasting accuracy is only 42%, he is absolutely remarkable in that he has allegedly been alive since the first ceremony in 1887!
In 1993 the movie Groundhog Day, starring Bill Murray, really put this tradition on the global map. It was considered a box-office success, earning over $105M, making it one of the highest-grossing movies of 1993. It popularised the use of “Groundhog Day” to mean a situation that is repeated over and over with the same circumstances.
Not only did the movie add this phrase into modern vernacular, but it also put Punxsutawney on the map again.
Happy Groundhog Day to our North American customers and colleagues and let’s hope for a positive weather forecast!