ILLINOIS (WCIA) — Each year, thousands of people anticipate Groundhog Day. People wait to see if a rodent can predict with its shadow whether there will be six more weeks of winter.
The holiday’s creation goes back centuries. and Illinois even has its part in the story.
How Groundhog Day was created
According to History.com, the Celts began celebrating Imbolc in the 10th century between the winter solstice and the spring equinox to mark the beginning of spring. The celebration then evolved into Candlemas, a feast commemorating the presentation of Jesus at the holy temple in Jerusalem. Christians in various parts of Europe believed that a sunny Candlemas meant another 40 days of cold and snow.
However, Germans created their own version of the celebration in the 18th and 19th centuries declaring that warm weather is coming if badgers and other small animals saw their own shadows. They brought the tradition to Pennsylvania around that time, choosing a groundhog as the annual forecaster.
History.com said a local newspaper editor created Groundhog Day as we know it today in 1887 at Gobbler’s Knob in Punxsutawney, Pa. He suggested the idea of using a groundhog to predict the coming weather to a group of businessmen and groundhog hunters, known collectively as the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club.
Nowadays, local dignitaries known as the Inner Circle preside over the festivities by wearing top hats to conduct the official proceedings in Pennsylvania Dutch dialect.
Illinois’ connection to Groundhog Day
Nowadays, one of the most well-known parts of Groundhog Day history is the 1993 film “Groundhog Day” starring Bill Murray, which immortalizes the holiday. Many of the scenes in the movie were filmed in Woodstock, Ill. near Rockford. Thousands of people gather each year at Woodstock Square Park for the Groundhog Days festival to celebrate the movie and the holiday.
A Polka band performs to wake up Woodstock Willie from his winter nap. The groundhog will then make a weather prediction for the next six weeks depending on if he sees his shadow or not.
Other celebrations in Woodstock this year include a breakfast, a discussion with the film’s screenwriter Danny Rubin, a walking tour of various filming locations including the local opera house and the bed and breakfast, wine tasting, and a public showing of the film.