10 Fun Facts About the History of Groundhog Day
Learn more about Punxsutawney Phil, the infamous groundhog weather forecaster who determines how long winter will last.
Meteorologists have had it rough lately, but 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; likewise, 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 2018, Phil has seen his shadow 104 times and only overlooked it 18 times. (There are 10 years where no records of Phil’s predictions exist at all.)
To get in the spirit of Groundhog Day — 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 Pothole Pete).
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; Phil is 22 pounds.
4. Groundhogs only live six to eight years, but folklore suggests that Phil sips a magical drink that gives him seven more years of life.
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.
6. Hibernation is similar to being in a coma. When groundhogs hibernate, their heart rates drop to five beats per minute and they can lose up to 30 percent of their body fat.
7. The Punxsutawney Groundhog Club hosts a three-day celebration leading up to Groundhog Day.
8. The popular movie of the same name (starring Rockland County resident Bill Murray) gave meaning to the phrase “groundhog day”: to repeat something over and over again.
9. Phil’s fans have been able to get text message alerts of his predictions since 2010. (Text “Groundhog” to 247365, in case you’re interested.)
So, what’s your prediction? More wintry weather, or blue skies and sunshine? Sound off by writing a comment below.
This article originally appeared on hvmag.com in 2015. It has been updated to reflect 2019's forecast and Punxsutawney Phil statistics.