Groundhog Day is a tradition based on a rodent meteorologist named Punxsutawney Phil. They say if Phil sees his shadow when he emerges from his burrow, winter weather and below average temperatures will continue for six more weeks across the United States. However, if Phil doesn’t see his shadow, then spring will come early.
The first official Groundhog Day was celebrated on February 2, 1887 at Gobbler’s Knob in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. Groundhog Day has roots in the Germanic tradition of Candlemas Day where locals would rely on the gestures of badgers or hedgehogs to inform them about the upcoming weather. When German pioneers came to Pennsylvania to settle, they brought the custom with them. Badgers are not common in the eastern half of the US, so they were replaced by groundhogs.
A select group of top hat and tuxedo-wearing individuals called the Inner Circle take care of Phil year-round. They’re a group of local volunteers who are responsible for carrying on the tradition of Groundhog Day.
The average groundhog lives to be between 6 and 8 years but Phil is supposedly over 130 years old. He is also really fat, as he weighs around 20 pounds (9 kilos). The average groundhog weighs 12-15 pounds.
Phil lives in Groundhog Zoo, a warm terrarium built into the Punxsutawney Memorial Library. Phil can be seen both from outside and inside the Library. He shares the home with his wife Phyllis and a couple of other groundhogs.
In the years following the 1993 release of the movie, “Groundhog Day” starring Bill Murray, crowds as high as 40,000 flocked to Gobbler’s Knob in Punxsutawney. Ironically though, the movie was shot in Illinois.
Now, how accurate is the prediction? According to the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club’s records, Phil has only predicted an early spring 18 times compared to 102 times for longer winters (a few years are unaccounted for). The U.S. National Climatic Data Center says Phil is correct only about 40 percent of the time.
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