Groundhog Day: History Repeating

Bill Murray and "Punxsutawney Phil" in a scene from the movie "Groundhog Day."
Bill Murray and “Punxsutawney Phil” in a scene from the movie “Groundhog Day.”

Today is Groundhog Day in North America.

Here are some things you may not know about it.

First the basics: Groundhog Day is celebrated every February 2nd. Traditionally, if the groundhog sees its shadow on Groundhog Day, it means there will be six more weeks of winter. If the rodent does not see its shadow, it means Spring will come early.

The first mention of Groundhog Day was a diary entry from 1841. The holiday has its roots in European weather traditions, which generally say a sunny day on February 2nd means that winter will continue. February 2nd is roughly halfway between the winter solstice and vernal equinox in the Northern Hemisphere.

The town of Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania is home to the largest Groundhog Day celebration, which dates to at least 1886, and draws up to 40,000 people. The site of the groundhog festivities is in a rural area about two miles east of town.

It’s probably not a good idea to put too much stock into Punxsutawney Phil’s prognostication. He’s correct only 39 percent of the time.

In 1993, the holiday received worldwide attention when it was the setting of the film “Groundhog Day” starring Bill Murray and Andie McDowell.

In the film, Murray is a cynical TV weatherman forced to relive the same day, Groundhog Day in Punxsutawney, until he re-evaluates his life.

The movie was not actually filmed in Punxsutawney, but in Woodstock, Illinois.

A review of the movie in The Washington Post called it a good Bill Murray vehicle, but “will never be designated a national film treasure by the Library of Congress.” However, it might be best that film critics don’t get to make those decisions, as in 2006, the film was, in fact, selected for preservation in the Library of Congress. The term “Groundhog Day” has entered the lexicon as a reference to a repetitious unpleasant experience.

Our question: Who directed “Groundhog Day”?

Today is World Wetlands Day, Candlemas and Inventor’s Day in Thailand. It’s Sled Dog Day and World Play Your Ukulele Day. It’s the birthday of author James Joyce, actress Elaine Stritch and singer Shakira.

On this date in 1993, the year the movie “Groundhog Day” was released, the top song in the U.S. was “I Will Always Love You” by Whitney Houston; the No. 1 movie was “Aladdin,” while “The Bridges of Madison County” by Robert James Waller topped the New York Times Bestsellers list.


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