National Weather Service United States Department of Commerce




                  History of Groundhog Day


The holiday, which began as a Pennsylvania German custom in southeastern and central

Pennsylvania in the 18th and 19th centuries, has its origins in ancient European weather

lore, wherein a badger or sacred bear is the prognosticator as opposed to a groundhog.

The holiday also bears some similarities to the medieval Catholic holiday of Candlemas.

In addition, it resembles the Pagan festival of Imbolc, the seasonal turning point of the

Celtic calendar, which is celebrated on February 1 and also involves weather prognostication.

For early Christians in Europe, Candlemas was a day to bless and distribute candles. It was

at the mid-point between the Winter Solstice and the Spring Equinox. Early Christians

decided that clear skies on Candlemas Day meant a longer winter was ahead, while a cloudy

day foreshadowed the end of winter. According to the English version:


If Candlemas be fair and bright,
Winter has another flight.
If Candlemas brings clouds and rain,
Winter will not come again.


In 1723, the Delaware Indians settled Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. It was a campsite

halfway between the Allegheny and the Susquehanna Rivers. The name Punxsutawney

comes from the Indian name for the location "ponksad-uteney" which means "the town

of the sand flies." When the Germans came to America in the 1700s and settled in Pennsylvania,

they brought their tradition of Candlemas and introduced the tradition of an animal seeing

its shadow into the prediction of the weather on that day. In Germany, a badger had been

used, but a suitable replacement in America was the groundhog.

In 1886, Clymer H. Freas, city editor of the Punxsutawney Spirit Newspaper was inspired by a

local tradition of hunting and barbecuing groundhogs and dubbed the participants the

Punxsutawney Groundhog Club. Using his editorial clout, he proclaimed Punxsutawney Phil,

the local groundhog, to be the one and only official weather forecasting groundhog.

He issued this proclamation on, appropriately enough, Groundhog Day, February 2nd.

Punxsutawney Phil's fame began to spread, and newspapers from around the globe began

to report Punxsutawney Phil's Groundhog Day predictions. Today, over 20,000 fans come to

Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania on Groundhog Day.


At Bangor, the warmest Groundhog Day was in 1976 when the high temperature was 54 degrees.

The lowest temperature observed was 30 below in 1962. The lowest high temperature observed

was 1 below in 1971. The normal high is 28F, and the normal low is 7 above.  Since weather records

began in 1925 there has been measurable snowfall on Groundhog Day 20 times.  The most

significant snowfall of 10.7 inches was observed just a few years ago in 2011.  The wettest

Groundhog Day was in 1981 when 1.52 inches of rain (and no snow) was observed.


At Caribou, the warmest Groundhog Day was also in 1976 when the high temperature was 49 degrees. 

The lowest temperature observed was 32 below, which like Bangor was also observed in 1962. 

The lowest high temperature ever observed was 6 below in 1971.  The normal high is 20F, and the

normal low is 1 above.  Since weather records began in 1939 measurable snow has been observed 32 times. 

The most significant snowfall of 20.8 inches was observed in 2003.  This was also the snowiest calendar

day ever during the month of February at Caribou. 


What do we have in store for Groundhog Day 2014?   Snow will taper off to scattered snow showers in

the morning at Caribou with a high near 30.  Rain or a mix of rain and snow at Bangor will taper off to

scattered rain showers in the morning with a high in the upper 30s.