I’m sure by now most of you are ready to see spring arrive with flowers, warm weather, and no snow. Even though this sounds wonderful, Punxsutawney Phil seems to think otherwise. Once he popped out of his burrow at 7:25 a.m. on February 2, Phil saw his shadow for the 107th time ever. He has made a firm prediction that there will be six more weeks of winter. This fun, yet unscientific, event dates back to 1887. Whether you find it enjoyable or not, it is something that has a very deep history in western Pennsylvania.
One of the most storied holidays in Pennsylvania is Groundhog Day. Starting back in 1887 in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, this tradition has roots with Germans who immigrated to the USA. In 1887, a newspaper editor from a group of groundhog hunters reached out to the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club. He declared that Phil was the only groundhog who could predict the weather. The idea of this interesting form of meteorology became a thing back in ancient Christian times. Back then, clergy would bless a candle, and the candle would represent how long/cold the winter would be. This is where the German immigrants in Pennsylvania modified this tradition into groundhogs. Groundhogs were very numerous in Pennsylvania. Since the year that this special tradition began, the line of groundhogs who have become Phil are the most famous groundhogs in America, without a doubt.
The event itself is also a bit more extravagant than many would initially expect. Each year, crowds as large as 40,000 from all over the state and country pack into a small town in western Pennsylvania to see the expert groundhog meteorologist make his prediction of the future. The three-day festivity includes side activities such as Lunch with Phil, an Annual Groundhog Banquet, and a visit to the Hogspitality Village. The festival is presided over by Phil’s “Inner Circle,” who carries out the procedures leading up to the final prediction. Members of this Inner Circle say that the crowd the week before this year’s event was the largest in the event’s history. This is mainly due to the fact that the event was held without any attendance last year due to the pandemic, and most people were extra thrilled for this year.
Even though the tradition does not have a very accurate record in past years, the event continues to be recognized in Pennsylvania as a well-known holiday. This holiday itself became much more prestigious and well-known back in 1993 when the movie, Groundhog Day, was released. This movie helped to introduce this new holiday and interested many people on its way. Nowadays, government officials in Pennsylvania even touch upon the holiday. According to KYW-TV, following the event this year, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf said, “Today our weather prognosticating groundhog sent a clear message – winter is here to stay for six more weeks. Each year on Feb. 2, people from around the world turn to our beloved Punxsutawney for the official word from Phil and get to revel in the magic of the day.” To go along with this, there are statues of Phil that have been placed in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. Starting back in 2004, there are now a total of 32 statues in the town. Just like the event, these statues have become nationwide tourist attractions. This shows how important the event is to the locals of this small western Pennsylvania town and how their culture has changed.
In terms of the actual process behind the prediction, it is quite a simple one. Each year, on the morning of February 2, Phil makes his prestigious annual prediction about the weather. After rousing from his burrow, he looks for his shadow and then makes his decision. According to the famous legend, if Phil sees his shadow when he emerges from the burrow, then there will be six more long weeks of winter. On the flip side, if Phil does not see his shadow, then he thinks that there will be an early spring. Only the current President of the “Inner Circle” can interpret Phil. This is important since the President’s understanding of Phil is what gets spread throughout the whole world.
After all of the festivities and celebrations are complete, Phil’s job is done. He then returns to his home, which is in the town library. Here, he lives with his wife, whose name is Phyllis. This groundhog is certainly living the dream life. If a groundhog having a wife isn’t enough to impress you, then how about Phil owning a vehicle? It is called the “Philmobile.” This unique vehicle was built to seat members of the “Inner Circle” and also includes a specially designed area where Phil can sit.
Here is a picture of Phil and his wife, Phyllis. (viralnova.com)
With all of this information, I’m sure by now you are asking yourself how all of this makes any sense. Well, the answer to that question is that it doesn’t. The prognosticator of all prognosticators, Punxsutawney Phil, continues to prove that he is a one-of-a-kind groundhog. No matter the critics that he may face regarding the accuracy of his predictions, he continues to serve his people in making his annual predictions and lives a happy life with his wife. As this was Phil’s 136th year of making weather predictions, he has had his work cut out for him over the years. Regardless of your thoughts on this holiday, I think we can all agree that it is interesting how all of this history has happened right in our backyard.
The Snyder County Times Newspaper