Groundhog Day is a traditional holiday celebrated on February 2nd. According to folklore, if it is cloudy when a groundhog emerges from its burrow on this day, he will not see his shadow and spring will come early; if it is sunny, the groundhog will supposedly see its shadow and retreat back into its burrow, and the winter weather will persist for six more weeks. Groundhog Day was adopted in the US in 1887 when Clymer H. Freas was the editor of the local paper Punxsutawney Spirit at the time, and he began promoting the town’s groundhog as the official “Groundhog Day meteorologist.” In southeastern Pennsylvania, Groundhog Lodges celebrate the holiday with festivities that include food, speeches and skits. The Pennsylvania German dialect is the only language spoken at the event, and those who speak otherwise are penalized usually in the forms of a nickel, dime, or quarter per word spoken!
The largest Groundhog Day celebration is held in Punxsutawney, PA with Punxsutawney Phil. Groundhog Day, already a widely recognized and popular tradition, received widespread attention as a result of the 1993 film Groundhog Day starring Bill Murray. Prior to the release of the movie, crowds generally topped 2000. In 1996, there were over 30,000 present at Gobbler’s Knob in little Punxsutawney, PA to see Phil come out and make his prediction. Punxsutawney Phil uses a simulated burrow for the grand event and spends the other 364 days of the year in a climate controlled glass “burrow” next to the Punxsutawney Library.
According to Groundhog Day organizers, the rodents’ forecasts are accurate 75% to 90% of the time. According to the StormFax Weather Almanac and records kept since 1887, Punxsutawney Phil’s weather predictions have been correct 39% of the time. I think that Punxsutawney Phil is adorable and very smart. Let’s give him the benefit of the doubt and take his word for his weather prediction on this Tuesday, February 2. I personally hope that Phil does NOT see his shadow and we will have an early spring!