Book Review: Groundhog Day

groundhog day cover “Groundhog Day” by Don Yoder is a comprehensive guide to this unique American holiday by one of the world’s foremost experts on Deitsch culture and folkways. In this book, you’ll find a detailed history of the holiday, from its roots in Pagan Europe through modern-day celebrations in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, and a variety of other American towns.

Yoder teaches us about the origins of Groundhog Day in a combination of Germanic and Celtic customs. In Germanic regions, the badger was observed as an otherworldly messenger emerging early in the Spring from its hibernation, bringing news of other realms. When the Germans came to the United States, they adapted this custom to the groundhog, as there are no badgers in North America. The Celtic customs of weather predictions on this day were later Christianized as “Candlemas”, which then combined with the Groundhog Day customs, sharing its influences.

Yoder gives a recounting of modern day holiday customs, including poetry, songs, recipes, and the various organizations dedicated to celebrating the groundhog and its predictions. Of particular interest for those who want to learn more about Deitsch culture is his chapter on the Groundhog Lodges, which formed to preserve the Deitsch language and traditions in Eastern and Central Pennsylvania. There’s also a chapter of information on the groundhog as a physical animal, which isn’t as easy to come by from other sources as you might expect. (For example, internet searches will yield more results about Bill Murray than the furry critter.)

While the information in this book isn’t strictly necessary to an Urglaawe celebration of Grundsaudaag, it’s great for anyone who would like a deeper understanding of the holiday and its origins. It’s definitely not a step-by-step guide to re-creating the holiday for yourself, and it notes the Pagan roots more as a curiosity than as anything with theological meaning. However, this book should be required reading for anyone who wants to work with the groundhog as a totem in a Deitsch context, and it will give the careful reader leads on new avenues of investigation. Yoder’s exhaustive bibliography alone is a great incentive to get this book. With many copies available on Amazon for only a few dollars each, getting your money’s worth from this volume will be easier than seeing your shadow!

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