Photo by kingstongal // Flickr
Groundhogs are not typically considered the strongest, smartest nor the cutest of all the creatures in the animal kingdom, but somehow, this rodent developed a reputation in meteorology. Every year on Feb. 2, groundhogs stake their claim to fame as Punxsutawney Phil emerges from his darkened tree trunk to test his shadow and determine whether or not humans will suffer six more weeks of winter. While all TVs are tuned in to the furry weather forecaster, here are some facts to remember about Groundhog Day and the truth behind his shadow:
1. The first Groundhog Day didn’t even involve groundhogs.
Groundhog Day stems from a Christian celebration called Candlemas Day which marked the halfway point between the winter solstice and spring equinox. Originally, the celebration used candles to represent the rest of winter until Germans began using a hedgehog to predict the time remaining before spring. As Germans started settling in Pennsylvania, they continued the tradition with a groundhog instead.
2. Punxsutawney Phil owes his fame to the press.
In 1887 Clymer H. Freas, editor of the Punxsutawney Spirit newspaper in Pennsylvania, named Phil the country’s official weather-predicting groundhog. Each year after, Phil’s story grew and other papers spread the news of this special groundhog that could estimate spring’s arrival.
3. Chances of Phil seeing his shadow are six times more likely than him welcoming an early spring.
Since 1887, records show that Punxsutawney Phil has seen his shadow 102 times and hasn’t seen his shadow only 17 times. After doing the math, Phil has seen his shadow six times the amount that he hasn’t, which means you better plan on bundling up for another six weeks.
4. While Phil is a skittish little groundhog, he’s not the most accurate weather forecaster.
Not unlike most other meteorologists, Phil’s predictions have proven to be pretty off in the past 27 years. Last year, Phil’s shadow predicted that winter would prevail another six weeks, however, by March the temperatures were above average. This may be good news for us, but it’s not helping Phil’s reputation.
5. Punxsutawney Phil is not the only groundhog trying to make it in the weather business.
Even though Phil is known as the United State’s official Groundhog Day groundhog, different regions and states have their own versions of groundhog forecasters. Other famous groundhogs included General Beauregard Lee of Atlanta, Sir Walter of Raleigh, North Carolina, and Jimmy of Sun Prairie, Wisconsin. Meanwhile, the groundhog in Silver Point, Tennessee, is a person dressed up like a groundhog on a motorcycle.
6. Phil might actually be waking up because love is in the air.
As chances have it, Groundhog Day is only two weeks before Valentine’s Day, and that might not be sheer coincidence. According to National Geographic, groundhogs go into hibernation in the fall and remain dormant for about three months. Male groundhogs typically start waking up around February to begin scouting out land and making visits to groundhog lady friends. All this time people thought Punxsutawney Phil was waking up to predict the weather, when really he could have just been looking for his girlfriend.
Tomorrow morning, as everyone cheers for, or curses at, Phil’s winter weather prediction, just remember that whatever happens, you’ll get to rewatch the movie Groundhog Day all day anyway.
To contact Lifestyles editor Tanner Dedmon email email@example.com.