Punxsutawney Phil: What is Groundhog Day? Origin, history, more

Potomac Phil, a taxidermied groundhog brought out to determine whether he sees his shadow, sits in Washington, DC Potomac Ground Hog club. — AFP/File

The yearly event, which gained enormous popularity following the 1993 Bill Murray film “Groundhog Day,” is anticipated to draw thousands of people.

The focus will be on Gobbler’s Knob in western Pennsylvania early on Friday morning when Punxsutawney Phil’s handlers will declare whether or not the groundhog saw his own shadow and forecast either an early spring or six more weeks of winter.

It’s a custom that dates back to European farming life and marks the halfway point between the winter solstice, which is the shortest day of the year, and the spring equinox. Additionally, it is a season that is included in both the Christian celebration of Candlemas and the Celtic calendar.

The four days that lie between the winter, spring, summer, and fall equinoxes are known as the midwinter solstices among the Celtic people of Europe. Christians commemorate Candlemas, which is linked to Joseph and Mary’s presenting of Jesus at the Jerusalem Temple, around what the Celts called Imbolc, according to AP.

In the past, humans used to predict the weather by keeping an eye on the sun, stars, and animal behaviour. The custom of using an animal’s emergence from winter hibernation to predict the weather originated in a similar German tradition using badgers or bears. 

It seems that Pennsylvania Germans replaced the groundhog, which is native to the eastern and midwestern regions of the United States.

Pennsylvania Germans settled in Punxsutawney, where they began commemorating the groundhog day by picnicking, shooting, and eating them in the late 1880s.

In addition, Punxsutawney Groundhog Club was established in 1899. The club has a special location next to Punxsutawney Memorial Library, with a window providing a glimpse into the creature’s burrow.

Though he doesn’t always follow the script, the Punxsutawney groundhog makes predictions. In 1929, the official groundhog appeared before dawn, and it didn’t return until late in the afternoon of 1941.

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