Groundhog Day is a tradition recognized by the United States and Canada every year Feb. 2. Punxsutawney Phil is the groundhog who determines if there will be six more weeks of winter, depending on whether he sees his shadow or not.
The tradition was first brought to the U.S. by German immigrants. Although Germans had brought the custom here, according to groundhog.org, the tradition originally was seen in Christianity and was called Candlemas Day.
Christians took candles to church to have them blessed and would bring offerings to their households for the remaining winter. It was not until the Germans heard about this tradition that animals were brought into the picture.
Germans adapted Candlemas Day and used badgers and other small animals seeing their shadows to determine whether the day would be sunny or not. Once German immigrants came to the U.S. in the 18th and 19th centuries, they brought this custom and chose the groundhog as the animal to tell them the forecast.
On Feb. 2, 1886, the first celebration of Groundhog Day was held in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. Clymer Freas, a newspaper editor, was a part of a group called Punxsutawney Groundhog Club. According to wmur.com, Freas brought up the idea of Groundhog Day to the club and named the groundhog in charge of determining how long winter will be, Punxsutawney Phil.
Today, the Groundhog Club’s Inner Circle leads the tradition. Stated by groundhog.org, “Inner Circle is a group of local dignitaries responsible for carrying on the tradition of Groundhog Day every year. They’re the ones who are not only responsible for planning the events every year, but they’re also responsible for the feeding and care of Phil himself.”
Over 100 years of celebrating the day, the question of Phil’s weather accuracy comes into play. According to The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Centers for Environmental Information, Phil is only accurate about 40% of the time. Basing how long winter will be on whether a groundhog will see its shadow might not be for the best.
The tradition is all in good spirits though. It brings thousands of people to the Punxsutawney area, specifically Gobbler’s Knob, every year. As for this year, unfortunately, Phil has seen his shadow, bringing us six more weeks of winter.
Fun fact: Woodchucks and groundhogs are the same animal.