Originally uploaded by boliyou.
The precursor to Groundhog's Day, also called St. Bridget's Day. Bridget was a pagan god who was later canonized into the Catholic church.
From Web Holidays:
"In Gaelic this holiday is known as Là Fhèill Brìghde nan coinnlean which translates as "The feast day of Brìghde of the candles". Bìghde is Bridget of Kildare, the Celtic goddess of fire, the hearth, smithy, fields, poetry and childbirth. She also gives blessings to women who are about to marry.
On the feast day, Bridget would visit and bless homes. If the sun was seen on this day winter was over but if the sun was hidden behind clouds winter was still to come."
Eventually in the Isles, people used hedgehogs and other burrowing animals to predict the winter. Settlers in the New World substituted groundhogs for the absent hedgehogs, and Groundhog's Day was born.
The official groundhog in the United States is Punxsutawney Phil, in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. From his official Web site, his 2008 prediction:
"As I look around me, a bright sky I see, and a shadow beside me.
Six more weeks of winter it will be!"