Today is Groundhog Day, a day where we wait to see if Punxsutawney Phil, a groundhog in Pennsylvania, will see his shadow and declare whether or not Spring will arrive early. In celebration of the only holiday centered around an animal, here are 5 great facts about the groundhog and his holiday.
1. Punxsutawney Phil has been the weather-forecasting groundhog since 1887. His name used to be Pete, but in 1952, a young reporter accidentally referred to him as Phil. No one questioned him, and from them on, Pete was known as Phil. According to groundhog lore, it has been the same groundhog since the very beginning of Groundhog Day, even though his name has changed.
2. The group that heads the groundhog ceremony in Punxsutawney is called The Groundhog Club's Inner Circle. They wear top hats and tuxedos and are responsible not only for the ceremony but for handling and feeding Phil. The group is made up of citizens of Punxsutawney including a math teacher and a chiropractor!
3. Groundhogs are the same as woodchucks, the inspiration for the classic tongue-twister, "How much wood could a wood chuck chuck if a wood chuck could chuck wood!" The tongue twister is so popular that it inspired scientists to explore- how MUCH wood could they actually chuck? There were two studies in the 1980's that came up with answers. The first assuming that the word "chuck" meant "ingest," and suggested that woodchucks could eat about 362 cubic centimeters of wood per day. The second assumed "chuck" meant "move," and concluded that woodchucks could move 700 pounds of wood a day!
4. Groundhog Day is rooted in Celtic and German traditions. The Celtic holiday of Imbolc (or the Feast of St. Brigid) said that a hibernating animal that casts a shadow on February 2 would signify longer winter. February 2 is chosen as the date because it is halfway between the winter solstice and spring equinox. The German holiday of Candlemas also falls on that day and says that if there are clear skies, it will snow straight through to May.
5. According to studies conducted about weather patterns, Punxsutawney Phil's predictions have a history of being on 39% correct. However, last year, Phil predicted a long winter (and boy, was he right!), so let's hope this year he predicts a warm, sunny, and early spring!
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By Katie Brookoff