Groundhog Day is very well known in the United States and I would not be surprised if it is known well in other countries as well but I would bet many do not know where it comes from. Germans who came to the United States brought with them the tradition of looking to animal to tell them how much longer the winter would last. While in their homeland they looked to the hedgehog it turned out the groundhog would server them in the New World. The first recorded mention of the tradition was by James Morris in his diary in 1841.
The most well famous of the groundhogs in the U.S. is Punxsutawney Phil who recieved quit a bit of publisty from the movie Groundhog Day with Bill Murray and Andie MacDowell. The city of Punxsutawney has a screening of the movie during it’s four day event. The Punxsutawney Spirit first reported on a groundhog day celebration in 1886. The legend of seeing his shadow meaning six more weeks of winter comes from the Christian celebration of Candlemas where in the middle ages priests would bless candles to be used for the rest of the winter. There was a saying that if it was bright and good weather on Candlemas there would be six more weeks of winter if the weather was bad then winter was over. From this if one could see a shadow the weather was nice and the tradition was born.
Many other countries have similar celebrations as well and I suggest listening to my podcast to learn even more and hear an interview with the event coordinator of the Punxsutawney Groundhog Day celebration.
Official Punxsutawney: http://www.groundhog.org/