earliest known written reference (in the Americas) to the German tradition is found at the Pennsylvania Dutch Folklore Center at Franklin and Marshall College, in a diary of Pennsylvania storekeeper James Morris: "Last Tuesday, the 2nd, was Candlemas day, the day on which, according to the Germans, the Groundhog peeps out of his winter quarters and if he sees his shadow he pops back for another six weeks nap, but if the day be cloudy he remains out, as the weather is to be moderate."
Other sources said that the Imbolc tradition once had to do with a serpent coming out of his hole. An old Scots Gaelic proverb states:
Thig an nathair as an toll
Là donn Brìde,
Ged robh trì troighean dhen t-sneachd
Air leac an làir.
"The serpent will come from the holeSince there weren't any serpents in Ireland, I don't understand this one. Not much wonder they changed to hedgehogs and badgers.
On the brown Day of Bride (Bridget),
Though there should be three feet of snow
On the flat surface of the ground."
February 2 is also known as Candlemas. Originally, it was a day to commemorate the end of the Christmas season. It marks 40 days after the birth of Jesus, which would mean the final day of purification for Mary in the Jewish culture. That meant it was the first time she could enter the Temple as clean, so this is commemorated as the day Jesus was presented in the Temple and seen by Anna and Simeon (Luke 2: 22-38). 'Way back when, the Christian, pagan and just folklore traditions got jumbled together, and in the process hibernating animals became connected to ideas about the end of winter and the beginning of Spring. I mention Candlemas because I found a couple of sayings pertaining to that and the weather. For example, in England it was said that
If Candlemas be fair and bright,From Germany, the saying goes
Winter has another flight.
If Candlemas brings clouds and rain,
Winter will not come again.
For as the sun shines on Candlemas Day,
So far will the snow swirl until May.
For as the snow blows on Candlemas Day,
So far will the sun shine before May.
The journey to Punxatawney Phil meanders from Ireland to Germany to Pennsylvania, mixing various cultures, traditions and animals, but always with hopes of a short winter. My parting thought: why do people always say there are six more weeks of winter if the groundhog sees his shadow but never go on to state what will happen if there is no shadow? I've finished the saying this way: If the groundhog sees his shadow, there will be six more weeks of winter; but if he doesn't see a shadow, there will only be a month and a half more of winter.