February 2, 2011

What the Hell Is Groundhog Day, Anyway?

In case you didn't know, today is Groundhog Day; A day in which a small rodent in Punxatawney, Pennsylvania dictates whether we'll have an early spring, or six more weeks of winter. This year Punxsutawney Phil (I'll get to him in a minute) did not see his shadow, meaning that spring should come early this year. Totally scientific!

punxatawney phil

Groundhog Day may seem completely insane to some people, but as a Pennsylvania native I take special interest once a year (for a couple of minutes, at least) as to whether or not Punxsutawney Phil sees his shadow or not.

Here's the jist of Groundhog Day for those who are only familiar with the Bill Murray movie. Punxsutawney Phil is a very famous groundhog who lives in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. On February 2 of each year, the town waits for Phil to emerge from his temporary home on Gobbler's Knob (you still with me?). If Phil sees his shadow and returns to his hole, he predicts six more weeks of winter. If Phil doesn't see his shadow, he will predict an early spring. It's as simple as that!

The origins of Groundhog Day date way back to the late 1800s, and came from blah blah blah, let's talk about this Punxsutawney Phil again. Apparently, during his 364 days off a year Phil lives in the town library with his "wife" Phyllis (another groundhog, I presume.) A select group, called the "Inner Circle," takes care of Phil year-round and also plans the annual ceremony. Oh, to have that job.

It seems like this rodent must be awfully special to warrant such a pampered life, but get this: Of Phil's 115 predictions he's only not seen his shady 15 times including today. And according to StormFax Weather Almanac and records kept since 1887, Phil's predictions have been correct just 39% of the time. One must question his accuracy, but I guess he is a weather man after all, right?

Kidding aside, Punxsutawney Phil provides us all with at least a few days' worth of weather-related water cooler chat, and someone to blame for the seemingly endless wave of snow storms across the East coast.

If this post hasn't satiated your need for all things Groundhog Day have no fear! There's a whole site devoted to the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club, and you can even send a treasured loved one a wonderful Groundhog Day eCard.