Meteorologists have had it rough in the Hudson Valley (we’re talking about you, topsy-turvy temperatures). Perhaps instead of looking to the skies for their forecasts, they should follow the lead of one furry fellow in Pennsylvania and keep their eyes on the ground.
First established by Germans in America in 1887, Groundhog Day was actually inspired by Europe’s Candlemas Day, during which clergymen would bless the candles they needed for the cold season. If the candles brought a sunny day, there would be six more weeks of winter. Conversely, clouds and rain signified that winter would end soon.
Nowadays, thousands gather at Gobbler’s Knob in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania to wait for an aptly named groundhog to emerge with his verdict — the validity of which, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, is questionable. Statistically speaking, it’s more likely that Punxsutawney Phil will see his shadow than not: From 1887 to 2022, Phil has seen his shadow 106 times and only overlooked it 20 times. (Mysteriously, there are 10 years where no records of Phil’s predictions exist at all.)
To get in the spirit of Groundhog Day ahead of this year’s prediction—whether you want six more weeks of winter or not—here are 10 fun facts about the holiday.
1. Punxsutawney Phil is the official groundhog forecaster on February 2, but many states have their own (like New York’s Staten Island Chuck).
2. Phil’s full name, granted by the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club, is Punxsutawney Phil, Seer of Seers, Sage of Sages, Prognosticator of Prognosticators, and Weather Prophet Extraordinary.
3. Groundhogs typically weigh between 12 and 15 pounds.
4. Groundhogs only live six to eight years, but folklore suggests that Phil sips an “elixir of life” that extends his lifespan by seven years with each sip.
5. The Germans originally chose a hedgehog as their animal forecaster. They turned to groundhogs instead when they discovered a large amount of them in Pennsylvania. Hence, Groundhog Day!
6. Hibernation is similar to being in a coma. When groundhogs hibernate, their heart rates drop to five beats per minute and their body temperature decreases dramatically.
7. The Punxsutawney Groundhog Club hosts a three-day celebration each year for Groundhog Day.
8. The popular movie of the same name (starring former Rockland County resident Bill Murray) gave meaning to the phrase “groundhog day”: to repeat something over and over again.
9. While groundhogs have their 15 minutes of fame each February, many farmers consider them pests for the rest of the year. They are herbivores, typically eating fruits, grasses, plants, and even tree bark.
10. According to ABCNews, the National Climatic Data Center found that there is no correlation between Phil’s prediction and the actual weather forecast.
So, what’s your prediction? More wintry weather, or blue skies and sunshine?