11 Little-Known Facts About Groundhog Day

Legend has it that if Punxsutawney Phil sees his shadow on February 2, there will be six more weeks of winter.

Every February 2, people flock to Gobbler's Knob to watch Punxatawney Phil, the groundhog who determines whether we'll get six more weeks of winter or early spring. It may seem like a silly tradition, but according to legend, if it is cloudy when a groundhog emerges from its burrow on February 2, he will leave the burrow—signaling that cold winter weather will soon end, bringing an early spring. If it is sunny and the groundhog sees its shadow, he will return to his burrow and winter will last for approximately six more weeks.

Curious about the history behind this long-standing tradition? If your knowledge of the holiday is limited to the movie Groundhog Day ($10, Barnes & Noble)—which, if you haven't seen it, is an excellent movie—read on to learn more about Groundhog Day along with some fun facts about Punxsutawney Phil.

Groundhog
John Noltner

Facts About Groundhog Day

  • The first official Groundhog Day was celebrated in 1887 at Gobbler's Knob, 2 miles outside of Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania.
  • The name Punxsutawney comes from the Delaware Tribe whose members settled the area in 1723 and their word "ponksad-uteney," which means "town of the sandflies"
  • Crowds as large as 40,000 people have traveled to Gobbler's Knob to watch Phil make his prediction.
  • When he's not predicting the weather on Groundhog Day, Phil lives in the town library in Punxsutawney with his groundhog "wife," Phyllis.
  • Punxsutawney Phil has only predicted an early spring 16 times.
  • After the 1993 movie Groundhog Day became popular, attendance at the Gobbler's Knob celebration skyrocketed.
  • According to the National Climatic Data Center, Phil's weather predictions have been correct 39% of the time—which means Phil is less accurate than flipping a coin.
  • The average life span of groundhogs is only 10 years—but fans are adamant that there has been only one Punxsutawney Phil, who is kept alive with a special "groundhog elixir" given to him every summer that lengthens his life for seven more years. There's no official word on how many groundhogs there have been.
  • Punxsutawney Phil's full name is Punxsutawney Phil, Seer of Seers, Sage of Sages, Prognosticator of Prognosticators, and Weather Prophet Extraordinary.
  • Other weather forecasting groundhogs include Staten Island Chuck from New York City, Sir Walter Wally from Raleigh, North Carolina, General Beauregard Lee from Atlanta, Georgia, and Jimmy the Groundhog from Sun Prairie, Wisconsin.
  • Texas started its tradition in 2010 and uses its state mammal, an armadillo, to predict the weather for Armadillo Day. The armadillo, named Bee Cave Bob, makes his weather prediction at the West Pole in Bee Cave, Texas.
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