On Sunday, February 2nd, many people will be watching and waiting to see whether Punxsutawney Phil sees his shadow or not. If he does see his shadow, according to the famous legend, there will be six more weeks of winter weather. If he doesn’t, the weather will get warmer and more-spring like. The fact about seeing his shadow is probably the most well-known piece of information about Groundhog Day. However, did you know the tradition is actually based off a Christian holiday? Let’s take a look at the Groundhog Day tidbits that most people may not know.
- Groundhog Day first started in Europe and is based on the Christian holiday, Candlemas Day. On February 2nd, Christians would take their candles to their church and have them blessed, which in return, was believed to bring blessings to their homes for the rest of winter. Over time, Europeans began to see the day and its weather as a coming or going of winter, all thanks to this English folk song.
“If Candlemas be fair and bright,
Come, Winter, have another flight;
If Candlemas bring clouds and rain,
Go Winter, and come not again.”
- Germany first introduced an animal to the tradition of Candlemas. If a hedgehog saw his shadow on Candlemas Day, then there would be 6 more weeks of bad weather or a “Second Winter.” As Germans began immigrating to the United States, their traditions came with them. However, the United States didn’t have many hedgehogs and a groundhog stepped up to the plate. In Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania in 1886, Groundhog Day first appeared in the local newspaper and the following year, people began to travel to Gobbler’s Knob in Punxsutawney for the historic siting. Gobbler’s Knob is Phil’s home and includes a tree stump as his burrow to hibernate comfortably in.
- According to Phil’s owners, he is correct 100% of the time in predicting the beginning of spring. However, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration states the animal has “no predictive skills” and has been right only about 65% of the time, since the tradition has started.
- In 1899, the Groundhog Club was founded. Today, it is officially known as the Inner Circle and is composed of local dignitaries who are responsible for carrying on the tradition each year, as well as feeding and caring for Punxsutawney Phil. In addition, the group is known for its documentation and preservation of Groundhog Day information, predictions, and archives. Lastly, the Groundhog Club granted Phil the full name of Punxsutawney Phil, Seer of Seers, Sage of Sages, Prognosticator of Prognosticators, and Weather Prophet Extraordinary. Talk about a mouthful!
- In 1943, Phil decided to sleep in and didn’t show up for his yearly job. This has been the only time the groundhog didn’t appear on February 2nd in the entire century.
- On average, a groundhog can live up to 10 years, meaning there have been a few Phils in Groundhog Day history. In the Time magazine article, “4 Crazy Groundhog Day Facts You Probably Never Knew – But Should,” president of the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club, William Deeley, states “At our summer picnic, we give Phil a shot of this special punch or elixir, and for every gulp he gets, the legend goes he gets seven more years of longevity.” You may wonder what is in that punch…
- Phil is a married groundhog. Along with his wife, Phyllis, they are kept in lightly heated environment that allows them to wake up on February 2nd.
Will he, or won’t he? That is the main question on February 2nd as all eyes turn to Punxsutawney Phil in Pennsylvania to determine whether winter will be longer or not. Now, as you ponder that decision, you’ll be a little more informed as to the history of Groundhog Day and its loveable tradition.