It’s Groundhog Day: Here are 5 things to know

Groundhog Club handler John Griffiths holds Punxsutawney Phil, the weather prognosticating groundhog, on Thursday in Punxsutawney, Pa.
(Gene J. Puskar / Associated Press)

The handlers of Pennsylvania’s most famous groundhog, Punxsutawney Phil, said the furry rodent has “predicted” six more weeks of winter after seeing his shadow at dawn Thursday.

Phil’s forecast is a symbolic part of an annual celebration, which takes place in Punxsutawney, Pa., about 65 miles northeast of Pittsburgh.

Here are five things to know about Groundhog Day:

  1. The Punxsutawney celebration began with the Germans, Pennsylvania’s earliest settlers, in 1887. According to the Groundhog Day official website, the Germans celebrate Candlemas Day: If a hibernating animal casts a shadow on Feb. 2, winter will last longer, but if no shadow is seen, spring will come early. “The settlers found that groundhogs were plentiful and were the most intelligent and sensible animal to carry on the legend of Candlemas Day,” the website states.
  2. The event is planned by the Groundhog Club’s Inner Circle, a group of local dignitaries. They plan the day’s events and, more important, they feed and care for Phil. As part of the tradition, the gentlemen wear top hats and suits on Feb. 2.
  3. The groundhog’s prediction is typically contained in a short poem, sometimes referencing current events or — when the nearby Pittsburgh Steelers are participating — a comment on the Super Bowl, which usually follows a few days later. But this year, Phil stayed on message and didn’t reference football, President Donald Trump or anything other than the weather. So, six more weeks of winter it shall be! Phil’s accuracy rate is just 39%, but who’s counting?
  4. The movie “Groundhog Day,” starring Bill Murray, was released in 1993, heightening the day’s popularity. Murray plays a Pittsburgh weatherman who finds himself living Groundhog Day over and over again until he improves his character enough to continue with life. A famous scene depicts Murray asleep in his bed as the Sonny & Cher song “I Got You, Babe” plays before his alarm wakes him up at 6 a.m. “Get up and check that hog!” the radio announcer says.
  5. A woodchuck rescuer in upstate New York lives every day like Groundhog Day. Times Staff Writer Tina Susman interviewed Bob Will, of Dunkirk, N.Y., in January 2012. “I’ve helped thousands and thousands of woodchucks,” he said, but groundhogs touch him the most. “You’d see one walking down the road with a broken leg and other people would say, ‘Oh, it’s just a groundhog.’ Just a groundhog?! It’s one of God’s creatures.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.



Feb. 2, 2017, 7 a.m.: This article was updated with the prediction for 2017.

This article was originally published Feb. 2, 2014.