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The First Groundhog Day: February 2, 1887 and the beginning of the Punxsutawney Phil traditions

On this day in 1887, Groundhog Day, featuring a rodent meteorologist, is celebrated for the first time at Gobbler’s Knob in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. The legend of Punxsutawney Phil is born.

According to tradition, if a groundhog comes out of its hole on this day and sees its shadow, there will be six more weeks of winter weather; no shadow means an early spring.

photo/ Aaron Silvers

The groundhog tradition stems from similar beliefs associated with Candlemas Day and the days of early Christians in Europe, and for centuries the custom was to have the clergy bless candles and distribute them to the people.

These candles represented how long and cold the winter would be. Germans expanded on this concept by selecting an animal–the hedgehog–as a means of predicting weather.

Once they came to America, German settlers in Pennsylvania continued the tradition, although they switched from hedgehogs to groundhogs, which were plentiful in the Keystone State.

The official 1887 tradition was birthed from a newspaper editor belonging to a group of groundhog hunters from Punxsutawney, the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club, who declared that Phil, the Punxsutawney groundhog, was America’s only true weather-forecasting groundhog.

The line of groundhogs that have since been known as Phil might be America’s most famous groundhogs, but other towns across North America now have their own weather-predicting rodents, from Birmingham Bill to Staten Island Chuck to Shubenacadie Sam in Canada.

In 1993, the movie Groundhog Day, starring Bill Murray and Andie McDowell, popularized the usage of “Groundhog Day” to mean something that is repeated over and over as Murrray’s character relived the event at Gobbler’s Knob in Punxsutawney over and over again.

Today, tens of thousands of people converge on Gobbler’s Knob in Punxsutawney each February 2 to witness Phil’s prediction.

The Punxsutawney Groundhog Club hosts a three-day celebration featuring entertainment and activities.

 

About the Author

- Roxanne "Butter" Bracco began with the Dispatch as Pittsburgh Correspondent, but will be providing reports and insights from Washington DC, Maryland and the surrounding region. Contact Roxie aka "Butter" at [email protected] ATTN: Roxie or Butter Bracco

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  1. Don Cherry attacked for saying ‘cuckaloos’ believe in global warming, Catherine McKenna responds with hysteria | The Global Dispatch says:

    […] Night in Canada segment, Coach’s Corner, on Saturday, a day after groundhog Wiarton Willie (Canada’s version of the events held in Pennsylvania) predicted six more weeks of winter, Cherry implied that Canada’s ongoing cold weather was […]

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