Thursday, January 30, 2014

February 2nd is Groundhog Day!

I know you’re all hoping for an end to this weather!  Well, on Sunday, we’ll find out if Spring is going to come early or if we’re going to have six more weeks of winter.  How can we possibly know this?  The answer comes in the form of a groundhog named Phil:
Punxsutawney Phil (picture from

Phil lives in a small town in western Pennsylvania called Punxsutawney (IPA pronunciation: ˈpʌŋksəˌtɔni).  Every year on February 2nd, he comes out of the ground with a crowd of people watching to see whether or not he sees his shadow.  If he sees his shadow (i.e. if it’s sunny) and goes back below the ground, there will be 6 more weeks of winter.  If he doesn’t see his shadow (i.e. if it’s cloudy), spring will come early.  This tradition has been going on there since 1886 [1]Are these predictions usually accurate?  Maybe not, but it’s still fun to pretend!  And some people actually do consider this tradition very serious:  there is even a secret society that cares for the groundhog(s).

Another cultural note:  The movie “Groundhog Day” (1993) with Bill Murray, made this celebration in Punxsutawney even more famous, and this movie has become an American classic.

[1] Yoder, Don (2003). Groundhog Day. Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania: Stackpole Books.

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