Come Feb. 2 we will be awaiting the famous Punxsutawney Phil to climb out of his burrow and forecast our weather for the last few months of winter. Legend says that if Phil sees his shadow America will have to endure winter weather for six more weeks. However, if Phil does not see his shadow we will enjoy warmer temperatures and an early spring.
His home is located at Gobbler’s Knob in Punxsutawney, Pa. He lives at the local library in a climate-controlled home. His love for dog food and ice cream has his weight at fifteen pounds.
On Groundhog Day, he will be placed in a heated burrow underneath a stimulated tree stump and brought out at 7:25 a.m.
The traditional Groundhog Day stems from an ancient celebration of the day, which falls in the exact middle of astronomical winter. This day occurs in the middle of the winter solstice and spring equinox. Superstition says on this day sunny skies means stormy and cold weather for the rest of winter and cloudy skies signify the coming of warm weather.
The history of this day, however, has less to do with a groundhog and more to do with a hedgehog. An old European tradition used a hedgehog to determine the weather for the rest of winter quite similarly to how we have adopted it in America.
When settlers founded Punxsutawney, Pa. in the 1800s, they decided to swap their prickly friend for a softer one, and thus the groundhog has become our very own furry meteorologist.
Punxsutawney Phil attained a legendary status from a newspaper inspired by a local group of groundhog hunters. Punxsutawney Spirit’s editor, Clymer H. Freas,declared Phil the forecasting groundhog in 1887. Eventually, surrounding newspapers took to this tradition and forecasting Phil became very well known.
All of America knows Punxsutawney Phil as our national forecasting groundhog, but there are many other famous predicting groundhogs throughout the country as well. General Beauregard Lee is famous in Atlanta, Ga. The city of Raleigh, N.C. has a groundhog named Sir Walter Wally. Jimmy of Sun Prairie, Wis. is another well-known groundhog.
According to Groundhog.org, “Punxsutawney Phil is the only true weather forecasting groundhog. The others are just impostors. He has been making predictions for over 125 years! Punxsutawney Phil gets his longevity from drinking the ‘elixir of life,’ a secret recipe. Phil takes one sip every summer at the Groundhog Picnic and it magically gives him seven more years of life.”
Each year thousands of people visit the historic city to get the annual prediction from Phil. Groundhog Day has become quite popular across the country and even has its own movie starring Bill Murray.
Past predictions made by Phil can be found at this website: http://www.groundhog.org/about/history/. Our predicting groundhog has a 39% rate of being correct. Since 1877, previous national groundhogs and Phil have seen their shadow 102 times on Feb. 2 and they have seen no shadow 17 times. There are ten years where there is no record.
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