Groundhog Day

Ms. G, the Official State Groundhog of Massachusetts
Ms. G, the Official State Groundhog of Massachusetts

Every year on February 2, Americans turn their attention to a small, furry animal. According to legend, if the groundhog (or woodchuck) sees his or her shadow there will be six more weeks of winter, but if not, spring is on the way.

The peculiarity of this tradition has earned it a beloved place in American folklore.

History

Upon coming to Pennsylvania in the 1700's, German settlers brought a longstanding tradition known as Candlemas Day—a holiday celebrated at the midpoint between the Winter Solstice and the Spring Equinox. Superstition held that if the weather was fair on Candlemas Day, the second half of winter would be stormy and cold. To determine the “forecast,” Germans watched a badger to check for a shadow.

Since there were no badgers in Pennsylvania, they looked for the next best thing—the groundhog

Thus an American tradition began. According to the lore, if the groundhog sees his shadow, he regards it as an omen of six more weeks of bad weather and returns to his hole; if the day is cloudy, and therefore shadowless, he takes it as a sign of spring and stays above ground.

Celebrating

While the award for the most famous groundhog in America goes to Punxsutawney Phil from Pennsylvania, here in Massachusetts we have our own celebrity. Ms. G has been “forecasting” the weather at Drumlin Farm Wildlife Sanctuary in Lincoln since 2003.

In fact, Wellesley school students joined Mass Audubon in submitting a bill to the Massachusetts state legislature to declare Ms. G the Official State Groundhog. The bill was successfully enacted into law and signed by then Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick on July 31, 2014.