When people think of Groundhog Day they most likely think of Feb. 2. Punxsutawney Phil might be less likely to pop into a person’s mind.
Phil is the weather predicting groundhog that lets us know how much longer winter will be.
It is said that if a groundhog sees its shadow when it emerges from its burrow, he will return to hibernate for another six weeks because winter will stick around for a while. If Feb. 2 is cloudy, however, we will have an early spring.
The first official Groundhog Day was celebrated on Feb. 2, 1886, in a little town called Punxsutawney, Pa.
It started out as a ploy to get people to read the Punxsutawney Sprit, the town’s newspaper.
Clymer Freas, the editor and an avid groundhog fan, proclaimed on the front page that he found a groundhog that could predict the weather.
That year the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club formed. The group would often visit the groundhog at his home in Gobbler’s Knob.
News got out of the weather predicting groundhog and soon other papers in the country were printing his weather predictions.
Within the next few years, Phil’s fans started making their way to Gobbler’s Knob. In 1993, over ten thousand people made their way to Punxsutawney.
However, Phil is not the only thing that was used to predict the weather.
During the early Christian era in Europe, people believed that the light of candles could predict when the winter would end. If the candle was bright, winter would continue. If the candle was dark, winter would end soon.
In Scotland, an old saying went that if Christmas Day was bright and clear, winter would go on for an extra few months.
In England people believed that if the hedgehog’s shadow was seen, winter would continue.
If there was no shadow seen, then winter would already be on the way out and the spring rain would be rolling in.
Punxsutawney Phil, however, is still a famous predictor of the weather and is highly recognized throughout the United States.
All of Phil’s predictions are recorded by Congress and posted on various types of web sites.
Pennsylvania governor Dick Thornburg stated that one of his greatest moments in office was meeting Phil in 1987. Phil also met with President Regan and appeared on Operah.
But Phil’s greatest moment was during prohibition, when he “threatened” to impose 60 more days of winter if he was not allowed a drink.
On Groundhog Day one can still see more than 50 thousand people tracking up to Gobbler’s Knob to meet with Phil.