Groundhog Day

Groundhog Day

To some, Groundhog Day is the 1993 Bill Murray comedy film. To the rest of the nation, Groundhog Day marks the North American holiday that is celebrated every year on February 2nd in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. The premise of the holiday is based around a legend that a groundhog by the name of Punxsutawney Phil can help predict the longevity of winter weather.

According to folklore the groundhog can predict the weather based on whether or not it sees its shadow after popping out of a burrow. If the animal sees its shadow and is afraid to come out of the burrow, then this means winter will extend for six weeks. On the flipside, if Phil doesn’t see his shadow and comes out of the burrow, which means wintry weather conditions will end soon. Spectators hope for the latter, as this indicates an early spring in both the U.S. and Canada.

Early Beginnings

Groundhog Day is based on a legend that is thought to be derived from the pagan holiday, Imbolc, which also falls on February 2nd. Legend says that bears and other animals come out of hibernation on the day of Imbolc. German and French settlers in the United States took these stories with them, especially in the western Pennsylvania region of Punxsutawney. It is thought that the modern tradition of Groundhog Day began in the mid-1800s.

Role of Punxsutawney Phil

Punxsutawney Phil is the official groundhog for the holiday celebrations. He lives in Punxsutawney full-time with his wife, Phyllis. Both groundhogs receive royal treatment from the town and they get to live a cozy life in the library. Every year he is let outside on Groundhog Day to make his weather predictions. Phil is a beloved symbol of the town, and he has made the holiday quite a tourist attraction.

Phil’s weather predictions are debatable, as well as his real age. According to die-hard Punxsutawney Phil fans, only one groundhog has made the weather predictions for over 120 years since the tradition started. However, groundhogs are said to have a lifespan of six to 14 years, depending on their health and surroundings.

Past Predictions

Legends utilize the casting of the groundhog’s shadow as a serious matter. However, modern Groundhog Day has transformed into more of a fun day rather than an accurate weather prediction.  Punxsutawney Phil’s weather predictions are about 39 percent accurate, according to reports by LiveScience.  More often than not, the groundhog sees his shadow, indicating six more weeks of winter. This can be accurate to some degree, given the fact that the holiday falls on February 2nd, while the winter season runs from late December to the middle of March.

Still, spectators at the annual event in Punxsutawney anxiously await the results from Phil in hopes of an early spring. While early springs do indeed occur, the weather patterns can vary by region. In 2011, Phil did not see his shadow, while the groundhog did see his shadow during the 2012 celebrations. With early winter conditions experienced in many regions of the country, many people will surely be hoping that Phil doesn’t see his shadow on February 2, 2013.

 




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