SunBird German/American Club news


Frank Nechvatal

As we near the coming of spring, we discussed a tradition that has existed in Pennsylvania for over 130 years. Of course, we are referring to Groundhog Day, and the most well-known groundhog is Punxsutawney Phil. This furry creature comes out of his lair on February 2 to see if he can see his shadow or not. The answer to this question is said to predict future weather patterns moving into spring.

This wintertime tradition has its roots tracing back to the early German settlers in Pennsylvania. These German settlers brought with them a European celebration called Candlemas, which is a religious celebration marking the mid-point of winter and also involves the blessing and distribution of candles. The Germans, however, added their own touch to this celebration. They came to believe that if the sun came out on Candlemas Day and an animal, usually a hedgehog, would cast a shadow, there would be six more weeks of winter (cold weather). The Germans called this the Second Winter. This saying sprang forth, “For as the sun shines on Candlemas Day, so far will the snow swirl in May.”

The Germans who settled in Pennsylvania found groundhogs instead of hedgehogs and deemed them to be intelligent enough to predict the future and decided that if a groundhog saw his shadow on February 2, it would mean six more weeks of winter. Over the years, Candlemas Day became known as Groundhog Day. The groundhog that was first used was named Br’er Groundhog and later was named Punxsutawney Phil after King Phillip. Today, the Pennsylvania Groundhog Club claims that Phil is 132 years old, and he owes his longevity to drinking “groundhog punch.”

Following our business meeting, we shared desserts and watched a video entitled German Gems which included visits to Koblenz, Rudesheim, Mainz, Heidelberg, Wertheim, Wurzburg, Rothenburg and Bamberg.

Auf wiedersehen