We all know the legend of Groundhog Day. Every year on Feb. 2, a groundhog named Punxsutawney Phil pops out of his burrow to inform the world what’s in store regarding weather for the upcoming months. If he sees his shadows, grab your scarf, hat and parka, and prepare for six more weeks of winter. If he doesn’t see his shadow, we’re in for an early spring season.
But while this groundhog has swept the nation for over a century is so revered, exactly who is Punxsutawney Phil, and what’s his story? Here are 10 facts to know about the furry fortune teller who will predict our seasonal future, which you can watch via live stream at www.visitPA.com/groundhog on Feb. 2 around 7:25 a.m.
1. Groundhog Day is a German concept
The tradition of Groundhog Day isn’t an American notion but rather is actually rooted in German superstition. According to the legend, which used a hedgehog, if the animal casts a shadow on Feb. 2, the Christian holiday of Candlemas, winter will continue for another six weeks, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. Early Christians even had a rhyme for it: "If Candlemas Day be fair and bright, winter will have another flight. But if it be dark with clouds and rain, winter is gone and will not come again."
2. Punxsutawney is a place
Nestled between the Appalachian Plateau, Punxsutawney is about 90 miles northeast of Pittsburgh and 100 miles south of Erie. Punxsutawney, Pa., is home to roughly 6,200 residents as well as Phil. Each year, Phil, who was originally named Br’er Groundhog, but was renamed after King Philip, pops out of Gobbler’s Knobb in Punxsutawney to reveal his prediction.
3. Phil is 127 years old
This year Punxsutawney Phil will be making his 127th prediction. But how has Phil been making predictions since 1887? According to the official website, Phil gets his longevity from drinking “groundhog punch,” a secret recipe known only by the Inner Circle. Just one sip during the Groundhog Picnic gives Phil an additional seven years of life. Even though the average life span of a ground hog is eight years, Phil has the secret to being forever young and isn't sharing it any time soon.
4. Phil has an entourage
If you thought that the world’s most beloved – and sacred – groundhog would roll without a crew, think again. Punxsutawney Phil has a posse called the Inner Circle Groundhog Club. On Groundhog Day, he speaks to the President of the top hat-wearing club and reveals his prediction. The group is responsible for carrying out the yearly Groundhog Day tradition and hosting the annual bash.
5. Phil has his own language
Yes, this special groundhog is so important that he has his own language, called Groundhogese. On Feb. 2, when Phil speaks with the Inner Circle, he speaks in Groundhogese. The group is tasked with translating Phil's prediction for the country.
6. Phil isn't always correct
According to studies by the National Climatic Data, Phil only has an overall accuracy rate of just 39 percent, though the official website states he is correct “100 percent of the time.” The StormFax Weather Almanac, which has kept record of Groundhog Day since 1887, shows that of the 116 predictions on record, Phil has only predicted an early spring 16 times. Last year, Phil saw his shadow predicting more winter and was incorrect, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which recorded above average temperatures in February and March.
7. Phil is the only one who can predict
According to the official website, “Punxsutawney Phil is the only true weather forecasting groundhog. The others are just imposters.” Others include Staten Island Chuck; wooly caterpillars at the Woolybear Festival in Vermillion, Ohio; and an armadillo in Texas.
8. Phil can whistle
Along with his talents of predicting the weather, Phil can also carry a tune. According to the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club, groundhogs will whistle when alarmed.
9. Phil is a famous actor
10. Phil is a squirrel
Punxsutawney Phil is actually a squirrel, technically. Groundhogs are the largest members of the squirrel family, according to National Geographic.