That’s right, woodchuck-chuckers – it’s Groundhog Day!
As most people know, Groundhog Day is a tradition based on a rodent meteorologist named Punxsutawney Phil. The custom goes that if Phil sees his shadow when he emerges from his wooded knoll, 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 often found in the eastern half of the United States, so the groundhog was deemed a suitable replacement. Here are a few things you might not have know about everybody’s favorite marmot prognosticator.
Phil has a posse.
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. When Phil emerges from his burrow to make his prediction, he “speaks” to members of the Inner Circle in Groundhogese and tells them his forecast. The Inner Circle then translates for the rest of the world.
Phil is old.
The average groundhog lives to be between 6-8 years but Punxsutawney Phil is supposedly over 130 years old. He gets his longevity from drinking “groundhog punch” a secret elixir known only by members of the Inner Circle. One sip during the Groundhog Picnic every summer gives Phil an additional seven years of life.
Phil is fat.
Punxsutawney Phil weighs around 20 pounds. The average groundhog weighs 12-15 pounds. Apparently “groundhog punch” is fattening.
Phil lives in a library.
Phil lives in “Groundhog Zoo,” a warm terrarium built into the Punxsutawney Memorial Library. Punxsutawney Phil can be seen from outside or from inside the Library. He shares the home with his wife Phyllis and a couple of other groundhogs.
Phil gets lots of visitors.
In the years following the 1993 release of the movie, “Groundhog Day” starring Bill Murray, crowds numbering as high as 40,000 have flocked to Gobbler’s Knob in Punxsutawney. Ironically, the movie was shot in Woodstock, Illinois.
Phil’s full name is long…really long.
Punxsutawney Phil’s full name is -Punxsutawney Phil, Seer of Seers, Sage of Sages, Prognosticator of Prognosticators and Weather Prophet Extraordinary. He was originally called Br’er Groundhog but was later renamed after King Philip.
Phil is often wrong.
According to the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club’s records, Phil has only predicted an early spring 18 times compared to 102 times for longer winters (ten years are unaccounted for). The U.S. National Climatic Data Center (NCDC), pegs Phil being correct about 40 percent of the time. They compared the average temperatures for the winter and spring seasons, and found that often when Phil would predict longer winters, temperatures actually turned for the better.
Phil’s a great little woodchuck, but you wouldn’t want to take him to Vegas. Regardless, you are going to want to earn the Ned Reyerson Badge on February 2nd.