For well over 100 years Groundhog Day has been celebrated on February 2 throughout the United States, Canada, and Australia, but have you ever wondered how this ridiculous tradition started?

The History of Groundhog Day

To fully understand why Groundhog Day is a thing, we need to know that it all apparently stems from a Pennsylvania Dutch superstition that actually dates back to the 18th century with the Germans. (Are you confused right now? I am too).

According to Wikipedia;

The Germans had a tradition of marking Candlemas (February 2) as "Badger Day" (Dachstag), on which if a badger emerging from its den encountered a sunny day, thereby casting a shadow, it presaged four more weeks of winter.

"Punxsutawney Phil" Makes Annual Winter Prediction On Groundhog Day
Getty Images

Fast forward to the 19th century when German settlers in Pennsylvania they decided to switch things up and use a groundhog instead of a badger, (but I'm not really sure why). The first "official" Groundhog Day celebration took place in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania in 1886 starring a groundhog named Punxsutawney Phil who was taken out of his cozy burrow on February 2nd to see if he can see his shadow, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Why Is Groundhog Day Such a Big Deal in Illinois?

Unless you have been living inside a groundhog burrow too, you know that Groundhog Day is a pretty big deal here in Illinois, especially in the Woodstock area. When it comes to Woodstock, obviously their love for this special day involving a rodent stems from the super popular 90s movie Groundhog Day starring Bill Murray. The majority of the movie was filmed in Woodstock, but have you ever wondered why the producers chose this area for the movie? I certainly have!

An article from said producers of the film originally wanted to film in a town that "looked like" Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, and is close to Chicago. Woodstock, Illinois fit the geographic description, just not the image producers had in mind for their film. That decision completely changed though when producers settled on the idea of filming in a town with a Square that could serve as a metaphor for Bill Murray's character being "trapped" in the movie. Woodstock instantly became the perfect choice.

Now, 30 years later, Groundhog Day enthusiasts still flock to Woodstock, Illinois every year on February 2nd for the town's big Groundhog Day celebration.

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Let's hope you do better in 2024, Woodstock Willie.

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