[Ads-l] Antedating of "Goundhog Day"

Peter Reitan pjreitan at HOTMAIL.COM
Thu Feb 16 23:34:03 UTC 2023

I have not found any earlier examples of “Groundhog day” than the ones already discussed here.

I did find an early oblique reference to it.  There is a report of a club called the “Ground hog Club,” meeting in Cincinnati on February 2nd 1850.  There is no reference to the weather or associated mythology.  The club itself appears to be a joke, or an inside joke, as they claim to have been founded four or five hundred years earlier.  But its meeting was on February 2nd, which shows that the association with groundhogs on that day was around.

And, having taken a closer look at more early discussions of earlier traditions, I think I’m coming to the conclusion that “Groundhog Hog Day,” as an informal holiday, is American, and not part of a German tradition.  The focus of the earlier traditions and mythology associated with them seems different than American Groundhog Day.

There are dozens of earlier references to old sayings about weather related to badgers, foxes, wolves, bears and groundhohttps://esnpc.blogspot.com/2023/02/groundhog-day-and-ice-cream-scoops.htmlgs going back to at least the 1600s.  The nearly all relate, specifically, to the day on the Christian religious calendars called Candlemas, or the Purification Mary.

The earliest traditions simply say if it is sunny on that day, that winter will be long, and if it is stormy (rain/snow), then spring weather will come earlier.  Later traditions introduce the idea of hibernating animals coming out or staying in hibernation on or after that date as indicators of coming weather.  But in all cases, the day is the religious observance of Candlemas – not a day devoted to the animal in the particular variant of the tradition.

What seems to be uniquely American is the idea that it is the groundhog’s own perception of the sun on that day that determines future weather.  The groundhog must come out and see or not see the sun – to affect later weather patterns.  His behavior is not merely an indication of the changes as determined by the weather on that day.  Within just a few years after the early accounts of “groundhog day,” comment come up referring to the groundhog humorously as “his hogship” or “his porkship,” and giving the groundhog mock-reverential treatment, and discussing the groundhog’s own perception of the weather.  There are even suggestions that he should look straight at the sun, to avoid seeing his shadow, which would trigger good weather to come early, despite the actual state of the weather.

And it’s only in the US where it became “Groundhog Day,” a day to honor his hogship as the agent of weather change, and not the groundhog or other animal merely an indicator of coming weather.

There are some references that suggest there was an earlier tradition of “Dachs Tag” in Germany, but I have seen no sign of it.  I have found a couple later references to that day in American German-language newspapers, but nothing in any German references.

My groundhog day post still a work in progress.

Tangentially related, I have finished my post on ice cream scoops and the purported invention frequently noted on groundhog day because a patent issued on that day.  Scoops much older, and that particular patent not really much like scoops used today, and no indication that his scoop was ever manufactured.


I also finished an unrelated on post on the history of so-called “Chinese” takeout containers.

It was known that they were American, but I pushed the timeline back about twenty years, invented by the guy who invented the stapler and staged the first public motion picture projection show in 1870.


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From: Mark Mandel<mailto:markamandel at GMAIL.COM>
Sent: Sunday, February 5, 2023 6:29 PM
Subject: Re: Antedating of "Goundhog Day"

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Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
Poster:       Mark Mandel <markamandel at GMAIL.COM>
Subject:      Re: Antedating of "Goundhog Day"

On Sun, Feb 5, 2023, 2:46 PM Peter Reitan <pjreitan at hotmail.com> wrote:

>  ...
> Perhaps I=E2=80=99ll get back to groundhog day itself soon.

And again, and again, and again...

I'll get my hat.

Mark Mandel


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