It’s a beloved winter holiday featuring a clumsy groundhog and an iconic movie — but did you know it was filmed just outside of Chicago?
Across the country, rodents at celebrations early in the morning on Feb. 2 will be lifted up in observance of Groundhog’s Day — which, it is said, marks approximately six weeks until spring — but only one local marmot will predict the weather from the exact same location that in 1992, Bill Murray did as the weather man in the cult classic ‘Groundhog Day.’
Woodstock, Illinois, located about 60 miles northwest of Chicago, on Thursday will hoist up Woodstock Willie at the town’s annual ‘Groundhog Days’ event. The multi-day festival set to begin Wednesday celebrates the famous 1992 movie filmed in its town — complete with walking tours of movie sites, a showing of the film, groundhog trivia, a pub crawl, and of course, the official Groundhog Day Prognostication at 7 am on Feb 2.
“If he sees his shadow, it means there will be 6 more weeks of winter,” a description of the event reads. “And if he doesn’t see his shadow, it means we will have an early Spring.”
To wake Woodstock Willie from his “winter nap,” the event will, of course, include a polka band playing in the bandstand in an iconic spot as an illusion to the film.
“This is our re-enactment of the Groundhog Day ceremony that as a weatherman, Bill Murray reported on; over and over again. That scene from the movie was filmed right here on the Woodstock Square.”
According to the NBC 5 Storm Team — which does not include a groundhog meteorologist — Feb. 2 is predicted to be partly cloudy with a high temperature of around 30 degrees. And while the weather Thursday will be slightly warmer than the frigid cold Tuesday, “don’t forget your booties cause it’s coooooold out there!”
What Happens if the Groundhog Sees its Shadow?
Groundhog Day, on Feb. 2, is both a timing milestone — marking six weeks until spring — and a tale of folklore, which can be dated back to the fifth century, a post from the National Weather Service says.
Around that time, the NWS says, the “European Celts believed that animals had certain supernatural powers on special days that were halfway between the Winter Solstice and Spring Equinox.”
“Folklore from Germany and France indicated that when marmots and bears came out of their winter dens too early, they were frightened by their shadow and retreated back inside for four to six weeks,” the post continues. “This was adopted by the Romans as Hedgehog Day. When Christianity came into being, the formerly pagan observance also came to be called Candlemas.”
The earliest known American reference to Groundhog Day, the NWS says, was in a Morgantown, Pennsylvania shopkeeper’s journal entry dated Feb. 4, 1841.
“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,” the entry reads. “But if the day be cloudy he remains out, as the weather is to be moderate.”
The rest, as they say is history — both meteorological and on the big screen.