Groundhog Day is held every February 2nd and has been occurring for centuries in different ways. Its date is significant as it falls between winter solstice and spring equinox. The traditions can be traced back to the Celts, as Imbolc, and later evolved into Candlemas by Christians. As the years went on different legends developed, and German immigrants brought it to Pennsylvania. Determining the end of winter was often an important prospect for farmers looking for information about the season ahead. There are thoughts that Candlemas brought traditions of looking at the pattern of bears – whether they would emerge from their dens or continue hibernation.

The first Groundhog Day as we know it occurred on February 2, 1887 in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. This name might sound familiar as it is the home of Punxsutawney Phil, a famous groundhog who emerges from his den, and with help from the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club, determines if he is afraid of his shadow or not. If he is scared back into his den by seeing his shadow due to a sunny day, there will be six more weeks of winter. If it is overcast and he is not scared of his shadow, there will be an early spring. Claims of Punxsutawney Phil’s success have been addressed by National weather networks, with both the National Climatic Data Center and the Canadian Weather Service weighing in on his success rate. Other groundhogs have better track records.

In Ontario, the most notable groundhog is Wiarton Willie, who resides in Wiarton in Bruce County. Willie’s history began in the 1980s – long after the tradition of Groundhog Day had been started in the area. The first Wiarton Groundhog Day event started in 1956, and was a great party between some of the locals. Willie’s success rate is also debated upon. What seems earnest is that cold clear sky days mark continuing winter, while wet overcast days mark the coming of spring. This year will mark the 65th annual Wiarton Willie Festival, and if you want to follow along with Willie’s virtual predictions this year you can: https://www.facebook.com/wiartonwillieofficial