The world's most famous groundhog on Friday did not see his shadow
The verdict from Punxsutawney Phil is in, and it's going to be spring!
On Friday, a.k.a. Groundhog Day, people from around the country waited to see what the famous groundhog would see when he emerged from his hole. And good news: for the first time in two years, Phil didn't see his shadow, meaning that he predicts spring will come early.
Had Phil rose from his burrow and not seen his shadow, that would indicate there were still be an extra six weeks of winter weather.
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The origins of Groundhog Dog can be traced back to the early holiday of Candlemas (Feb. 2), in which Christians bring their candles to church and have them blessed, per the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club.
Followers of the holiday believe that clear skies indicate a longer winter, according to Pennsylvania’s tourism website. Roman legions brought that tradition to the Germanic tribes who concluded that if the sun appeared on Candlemas Day and a hedgehog cast a shadow, there would be six more weeks of bad weather to come.
German immigrants brought the tradition to Pennsylvania going back to the 18th and 19th centuries. In 1886, according to the Punxsutawney Ground Club, the first Groundhog Day was reported in a newspaper, and the following year the first official trek to Gobbler’s Farm began–kicking off a tradition that continues to to this day.
Although he is famously known as a weather forecaster, Phil always doesn’t get it right. In a comparison between previous U.S., weather forecasts and Phil’s predictions, the groundhog has hit the mark only about 40 percent of the time, according to the National Centers for Environmental Information.
"Even if you flip a coin, you'll still be right close to half of the time,” Tim Roche, a meteorologist with Weather Underground, told LiveScience. “That's a 50 percent accuracy rate. So you'll be better off flipping a coin than going by the groundhog's predictions."
But that hasn’t stopped the Punxsutawney community from making Groundhog Day a multiday celebration, with this year’s events including Gobbler’s Knob Got Talent, an open-judged talent show; an annual Groundhog Banquet, in which the Man and Woman of the Year for Punxsutawney are announced; a Lunch with Phil. where fans of Phil gather and meet; and the very popular Groundhog Ball where guests dress in formal attire.
According to Pennsylvania's tourism website, the event draws about 30,000 visitors annually to Punxsutawney (whose general population is about 5,700), while millions watch it on television or Internet streaming.
Groundhog Day has also been engrained in popular culture, most notably with the 1993 classic comedy film of the same name starring Bill Murray. On Friday, Chicago’s Harry Caray’s Tavern is holding a reunion of several cast members from Groundhog Day to honor the film’s late director, Harold Ramis, NBC affiliate WMAQ reported.
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