Image via WikipediaIt’s doubtful whether anyone would have thought, during the first official Groundhog Day in 1886, that over 100 years later people would still be focusing their attention on a little critter on February 2 each year. It is on that date that Punxsutawney Phil tells the nation if there will be six more weeks of winter or not.
Many people don’t realize Groundhog Day has its origin in Germany. Tradition there claims that a badger or hedgehog would predict the coming of spring. If the animal saw its shadow on Candlemas, winter weather would continue. German settlers moved to the United States and continued the tradition. However, since there weren’t hedgehogs or badgers where they lived, they chose the groundhog as the weather prognosticator.
* Phil, the groundhog everyone looks to, has a long name: "Punxsutawney Phil, Seer of Seers, Sage of Sages, Prognosticator of Prognosticators and Weather Prophet Extraordinary." This name was given to a groundhog in 1887 by the "Punxsutawney Groundhog Club."
* Phil lives in the Punxsutawney Library for the remainder of the year, but each year as Groundhog Day nears, he’s taken from his home at Gobbler’s Knob. He is then placed in a heated burrow until he makes his appearance at 7:25 a.m. on Groundhog day each year.
* In 1993 the movie “Groundhog Day,” starring Bill Murray, was released. The movie, filmed in Woodstock, Illinois because Punxsutawney is in a rural area which made it difficult to use for filming.
* For those unable to make the annual trek to Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, each year’s ceremony is broadcast on major television stations. It can also be seen on the big screen at Times Square, New York City.
* Groundhogs hibernate each year and generally come out of hibernation between the first and second weeks of February. Experts say the animal comes out of hibernation due to the increased number of daylight hours.
* In the wild, groundhogs live about six to eight years. Phil, however, is said to be given a magical drink every year which enables him to live seven more years. Having said that, members of the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club claim Punxsutawney Phil is over 120 years old.
* Although Punxsutawney Phil is said to be the official Groundhog Day weather predictor, other groundhogs are found around the world. These include General Beauregard Lee, Peewee the Woodchuck, Wiarton Willie, Shubenacadie Sam, Stanten Island Chuck, and Dunkirk Dave.
* Each year tens of thousands of people make their way to Punxsutawney to learn first-hand whether winter will continue for six more weeks.
* In over 100 years of predicting the coming of spring, Phil has seen his shadow 96 times, seen no shadow 14 times, with 9 years where there was no record.
Is Punxsutawney Phil, or any of the other groundhogs around the world, accurate in predicting the arrival of spring? That’s up for debate. One thing is for sure, however, when it comes to Groundhog Day, these fun facts can make the day more enjoyable for all who celebrate.