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The tradition of celebrating Groundhog Day has its roots in Pennsylvania Dutch lore. According to a superstition, if a groundhog emerges from the burrow and doesn’t see its shadow because of cloudy weather, spring will arrive early this year. However, if the weather is clear and the groundhog sees its shadow, it will retreat to its den and winter will last for six more weeks.
Groundhog Day has been celebrated since the mid-19th century. Originating from Pennsylvania, it has become a popular observance throughout the United States and Canada, and even in some places abroad. Alaskans, however, eventually decided to rename it Marmot Day to celebrate Alaska marmots and Alaskan culture.
The groundhog and the Alaska marmot belong to the same genus, Marmota. Although there are groundhogs in Alaska, Alaska marmots (also known as Brooks Range marmots or Brower’s marmots) are much more common here. In fact, the Alaska marmot is considered the least threatened species of marmot.
Alaska marmots inhabit the Brooks Range, Kokrines Hills and Ray Mountains, and can be found scattered throughout the state. They are very social animals that live in colonies. One of the most interesting things about the Alaska marmot is that it is active for only four months and hibernates the rest of the year. Marmots retreat to their dens in September and emerge in May or June.
The idea to replace Groundhog Day with Marmot Day was first voiced by ex-Senator Curtis D. Menard. In January 2009, his wife, Senator Linda Menard, introduced a bill to officially rename February 2 Marmot Day. She didn’t expect marmots to forecast weather like Punxsutawney Phil (actually, Alaska marmots are still hibernating on February 2) but rather hoped that the observance would serve to educate people about the marmot. In April 2009, Governor Sarah Palin signed the bill into law.
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Since its establishment over a decade ago, Marmot Day has become a well-loved Alaskan tradition. It celebrates Alaskan wildlife and helps preserve Alaska’s folk traditions that have declined over the years.
Alaskan Marmot Day shouldn’t be confused with Marmot Day celebrated in Owosso, Muchigan. The latter was introduced in 2002 and is celebrated on July 25. It is a community celebration of all marmots, including groundhogs, ground squirrels, and woodchucks.Remind me with Google CalendarCategoryEcological Observances, Folk FestivalsCountryUSATagsMarmot Day in Alaska, holidays in Alaska, holidays in the US, folk festivals, official holidays