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Groundhog Day History

Melissa is the assignment editor and contributing writer for SheKnows Home and Living. While other little girls were playing dress up with Barbie, Melissa was busy remodeling Barbie's house. She now lives out her dream covering design an...

Just why is a groundhog predicting the weather?

Well, old Punxsutawney Phil did not see his shadow this Groundhog Day morning, and according to legend that means we can expect an early spring--welcome news for gardeners! But, as a realist, instead of asking if the groundhog saw his shadow, I'm asking why a groundhog is predicting the weather.


Well, old Punxsutawney Phil did not see his shadow this Groundhog Day morning, and according to legend that means we can expect an early spring--welcome news for gardeners!

But, as a realist, instead of asking if the groundhog saw his shadow, I'm asking why a groundhog is predicting the weather.

How this tradition came about actually makes some level of sense. It dates back to an old European tradition where a badger or bear predicts the end of winter. I can buy this, considering that bears hibernate in winter and if they're coming out and about in early February, they must expect it to be warming up soon.

The groundhog must have been easier to come by for German settlers in Pennsylvania, and Phil's been predicting the weather in the oh-so-misspellable Punxsutawney, Pa. since 1887.  But he's not the only one: Susquehanna Sherman, Dover Doug, Malverne Mel, Holtsville Hal and Staten Island Chuck all made their predictions this morning and the results were varied.  Woodstock Willie was snowed in and couldn't come out to prognosticate, but (considering the reason for his absence) we probably don't need a groundhog to figure out that weather situation.

As I ponder this on a 30-degree day in Phoenix, Ariz., I'm not buying into any of it. I'll believe spring is here when I feel it!

While you wait out winter or expect a sudden spring, enjoy these fun Groundhog Day facts:

  1. Punxsutawney Phil has seen his shadow 97 times, has not seen it 16 times, and nine years are unaccounted for.

  2. In the years following the release of Bill Murray's 1993 movie Groundhog Day as many as 30,000 visitors make the pilgrimage to Gobbler's Knob to see Phil's prediction.

  3. No groundhogs? No problem. In 2009, Alaska passed a law declaring that February 2 is officially observed as Marmot Day instead of Groundhog Day. Some areas of West Texas use an armadillo instead of a groundhog.

  4. The National Climatic Data Center reportedly states that Phil's prediction's have been correct 39 percent of the time.

  5. Need a fast way to find out the prediction? Text "groundhog" to 247365 on Groundhog Day to get Phil's official forecast.

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