“Phil” You Be Watching?

As HHS students prepare to shadow their teachers, the groundhog prepares to find its shadow. Thousands of people will gather at Gobbler’s Knob in Pennsylvania, once again, to watch the ceremony unfold. The Punxsutawney extravaganza will be broadcast on television stations and even on the big screen in Times Square.

At exactly 7:25 a.m. this year—as well as every year– Phil will be taken out of his heated burrow underneath a simulated tree stump, as people across the nation watch in anticipation for him to make his prediction.

The groundhog was given his name by this group of men. His full name is Punxsutawney Phil, Seer of Seers, Sage of Sages, Prognosticator of Prognosticators and Weather Prophet Extraordinary. He weighs about 20 pounds and is 22 inches long.  The Punxsutawney Groundhog Club also declared Punxsutawney to be the weather capital of the world. Phil is said to be more than one hundred years old, due to his wife Phyllis and a steady diet of Groundhog Punch.

On February 2nd, 1887, the first official Groundhog’s Day took place in Punxsutawney, PA. Clymer Freas, a local newspaper editor, came up with the idea. A group of businessmen and groundhog hunters known as the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club went to Gobbler’s Knob. This is where they saw the groundhog see its shadow for the first time. 

Groundhog’s Day falls midway between the winter solstice and the spring equinox on February 2nd. Many celebrations have taken place throughout history on this day. The Celts celebrated Imbolc to mark the beginning of spring. It eventually evolved into Candlemas by the Christians which was a feast to celebrate the presentation of Jesus at the Holy Temple in Jerusalem. It was believed that a sunny Candlemas meant forty days of cold and snow.

Germans eventually developed their own take on the holiday by using a badger to test if the day was sunny or not. If the badger saw its shadow, the day would be pronounced sunny. As Germans immigrated into Pennsylvania during the 1700’s and 1800’s, they brought with them this tradition. The difference was instead of a badger, they used the native groundhog.  

With record-breaking low temperatures this winter, it is no wonder that Phil’s prognostication is well-awaited. Soon after Phil’s special day, be sure to listen closely for the whistling of the groundhog to indicate that spring has begun!

“If Candlemas be fair and bright, winter has another flight. If Candlemas brings clouds and rain, winter will not come again.”

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