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What is Groundhog Day?

The first Groundhog Day took place on February 2, 1887 at Gobbler’s Knob in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. If a groundhog comes out of his burrow on Groundhog Day and sees his shadow, that means there will be another six weeks of winter weather. If he does not see his shadow, spring will come early.

Where did Groundhog Day come from?

On Candlemas, an ancient Christian tradition, candles would be blessed by the clergy and distributed for the winter, representing how cold and long it would be. The Germans started using a hedgehog to predict the weather. When German settlers came to Pennsylvania, the tradition continued with a groundhog.

What is a Groundhog?

The scientific name for groundhogs is Marmota monax, and they are also called woodchucks. They are herbivores, weigh 12-15 pounds, and live around seven years. They can swim and climb trees and are known to whistle when they are afraid or searching for mates. They hibernate in the fall and come out of their burrows in February to look for mates. They then go back into hibernation until March.

10 things you did not know about Groundhog Day

  1. The original groundhog was named Punxsutawney Phil, and according to legend, every summer his life is extended by seven years.
  2. If you think Punxsutawney Phil’s name is confusing, try saying his full name, which is "Punxsutawney Phil, Seer of Seers, Sage of Sages, Prognosticator of Prognosticators, and Weather Prophet Extraordinary."
  3. The famous 1993 film Groundhog Day with Andie MacDowell and Bill Murray was shot in Woodstock, IL, not in Punxsutawney.
  4. Bill Murray left the set of another film to attend Groundhog Day in 1992, a year before the release of the film.
  5. After comparing temperatures in the US from 1988 to 2012, the National Climatic Data Centre determined that Phil’s accuracy is only 39%, which is worse than chance.
  6. Groundhogs can tell when winter is ending but their shadows have nothing to do with it. Because they hibernate, they can tell when winter is over and it is time to come out of their burrows.
  7. Punxsutawney Phil tells the Inner Circle president his prediction in “groundhogese.” It is then told to the vice president, who chooses the correct scroll – the one indicating six weeks of winter or the one saying spring will come early.
  8. Punxsutawney Phil lives with his wife Phyllis and 2 other groundhogs in the children’s section of the Punxsutawney Memorial Library.
  9. Because their school buses are used for transporting thousands of visitors to Gobbler’s Knob on Groundhog Day, Punxsutawney Area High School students get the day off.
  10. In 2004, 32 six-foot “Phantastic Phils” were installed on sidewalks in Punxsutawney.