Today is February 2nd, and like everyone else across the United States, I have been wondering if Punxsutawney Phil will see his shadow.
What is Groundhogs Day and how did it get started?
Like so many of the holidays, it appears to be a cross between Christian customs and local lore. The date, February 2nd, falls midway between the winter solstice and the spring equinox. Pagans called this day Imbolc and as Christianity spread, Christians called this day Candlemas. If the day was sunny, Christians believed it meant there would be many more days of winter.
On February 2, 1887, a local newspaper editor named Clymer Freas in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania declared Phil, a groundhog that lived at Gobble’s Knob the one true forecasting animal in the country. According to legend, the same groundhog is still alive and will turn 132 years old this year .
In 1993, Bill Murray starred in the movie Groundhog Day and since then Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, gets many visitors each year to see if Phil will see his shadow or not. If he sees his shadows, it means another six weeks of winter. If he doesn’t see his shadow, it means an early spring.
What about the groundhog (Marmot monax)? It is also called woodchuck, land-beaver, and whistle-pig. It gets the name whistle-pig because when it gets alarmed it will emit a high-pitched whistle to warn the rest of his or her colony.
The groundhogs live in underground burrows, usually buried five feet deep. These burrows can be elaborate: up to twenty-four feet long with two side chambers. One side chamber is used as the groundhog’s restroom area. The other side chamber is used as a nesting area. There are usually two to five different entrances into the burrow that provide different routes of escape from predators.
So how correct is Punxsutawney Phil in his predictions? According to his handler, Phil is one-hundred percent correct. It is the president’s, of the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club, interpretation of Phil’s prediction that is not always accurate.