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Groundhog Day: A History, And 5 Facts You Didn't Know


First Posted: 04/03/10 06:12 AM ET Updated: 05/25/11 04:20 PM ET

Groundhog Day is held on Feb. 2, in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania every year, and you might be wondering how a groundhog landed the job of predicting the weather. If you're unfamiliar with the tradition, it goes like this: If the groundhog, Punxsutawney Phil, sees his shadow, we're stuck with six more weeks of winter. If he doesn't see his shadow, we luck out with an early spring.

The tradition dates back to 1887, and though the origins are unclear, it is said to have originated from ancient European weather lore in which a badger or sacred bear predicts the weather, rather than a groundhog. It also has religious origins, as it shares similarities with Candlemas Day, which is also on Feb. 2. According to an old English song, "If Candlemas be fair and bright,/ Come, Winter, have another flight."

Punxsutawney Phil has definitely adapted to the times. He can now text you his Tuesday weather prediction. Just text "Groundhog" to 247365 on Groundhog Day.

States without groundhogs are taking matters into their own hands by choosing their own weather predictor. Texas, for example, chose its state mammal, an armadillo, to predict the weather for their first "Armadillo Day." Only time will tell whether the groundhog or the armadillo is the true prognosticator.

Here are five facts you probably didn't know about Groundhog Day:

1. Punxsutawney Phil has seen his shadow 97 times, has not seen it 15 times, and nine years are unaccounted for.

2.
The National Climatic Data Center reportedly stated that Phil's prediction's have been correct 39 percent of the time. This number is in conflict with Phil's club, which states he's been right 100 percent of the time.

3. According to the funny website groundhog.org, there's a legend that during Prohibition, Phil threatened to impose 60 weeks of winter on the community if he wasn't allowed a drink.

4. In the years following the release of Groundhog Day, a 1993 film starring Bill Murray, crowds numbering as high as 30,000 have visited Gobbler's Knob, a tiny hill in Punxsutawney where the ceremony takes place.

5.
Though groundhogs typically live only six to eight years, Groundhog Day lore suggests that Phil drinks a magic elixir every summer, which gives him seven more years of life.

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Filed by Gazelle Emami  |  Report Corrections