It’s Groundhog Day, the annual holiday where we anxiously await Punxsutawney Phil to emerge from his burrow to predict what the weather will hold in store for us for the next six weeks. Did he see his shadow and scurry back inside? Six more weeks of winter. Was his shadow nowhere to be found? An early spring for us! From the outside, it may seem like an awfully strange holiday to celebrate, to say the least, but you can be sure it was the talk of the water cooler this morning, as it is every February 2nd.
And if, around that water cooler, you want to share more than the “shadow report” (ol’ Phil was reported to have seen his shadow this year, by the way…), here are a few fun facts about Groundhog Day you may not have known about:
Groundhog Day is celebrated in both the United States and Canada.
The holiday, which began as a Pennsylvania German custom in southeastern and central Pennsylvania in the 18th and 19th centuries, has its origins in Germany, where German tradition holds that if the sun comes out on Candlemas, the precursor to Groundhog Day, the hedgehog (or badger) will see its shadow and six more weeks of winter will follow.
When German settlers came to Pennsylvania they continued this tradition, using groundhogs instead of hedgehogs to predict the weather.
The largest Groundhog Day celebration is held in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, where crowds as high as 40,000 have gathered to celebrate the holiday since at least 1886.
Groundhog Day proponents state that the rodents’ forecasts are accurate 75% to 90%. A Canadian study for 13 cities in the past 30 to 40 years puts success rate level at 37%. Also, the National Climatic Data Center reportedly has stated that the overall predictions accuracy rate is around 39%.
Punxsutawney Phil’s yearly Groundhog Day predictions are entered every year into the Congressional Record.
The groundhog’s full name is actually “Punxsutawney Phil, Seer of Seers, Sage of Sages, Prognosticator of Prognosticators and Weather Prophet Extraordinary.” It was so proclaimed by the “Punxsutawney Groundhog Club” in 1887, the same year they declared Punxsutawney to be the weather capital of the world.