Although the calendar says it’s winter, spring could be just around the corner — that is, according to the legend of Groundhog Day.
While there is no meteorological truth to Groundhog Day, it’s a fun legend and an annual tradition. Each year on February 2, we wait in great anticipation for Phil to issue his latest Groundhog’s proclamation.
Bill Murray made Punxsutawney Phil a household name in 1993, when he starred in the movie Groundhog Day, but the people of Punxsutawney have been celebrating this day since 1886. The tradition of Groundhog Day began when the Germans who settled Pennsylvania brought their Candlemas Day celebration along with them.
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Early Christians interpreted the weather conditions on the holy day of Candlemas as a sign. As the Romans conquered Europe and spread Christianity, Germans adopted Candlemas and believed that if the sun shone that morning such that a hedgehog could see its shadow, they would experience a “Second Winter” lasting about six weeks.
As the Germans settled western Pennsylvania around the current town of Punxsutawney, they were amazed by the number of groundhogs living there. Because the groundhog closely resembled the hedgehog, they decided that it made for a suitable replacement as the prognosticator on Candlemas.
The first official Groundhog Day was celebrated on February 2, 1886, though it wasn’t until 1887 that the local newspaper, The Punxsutawney Spirit, began its tradition of recording Phil’s outcome each year.
According to the website StormFax, the groundhog’s seasonal forecasting accuracy is somewhat low. Phil’s Winter prognostications have been correct only 39% of the time. Yet according to the official Groundhog Day website Phil’s accuracy is “100% – of course!”
Happy Groundhog Day!
The WeatherBug Team