Poor Phil. All he wants to do is sleep in on a cold winter's day. But then he's abducted from his bed, pulled into 10°F weather or colder, and blinded by hundreds of flashing lights. What's a rodent to do?
Here's a bit of info on one of the oddest national holidays in the US:
Based on the European holiday of Candlemas Day, where clergy would bless candles. The weather on that particular day would predict the rest of the season: (Groundhogday.org) From an old English verse: If Candlemas be fair and bright, Come, Winter, have another flight; If Candlemas brings clouds and rain, Go Winter, and come not again.
From this, early Germans predicted that if the sun were to shine on Candlemas Day, the hedgehog would cast a shadow and run back into its burrow, signifying 6 more weeks of harsh winter weather. Once settled in Pennsylvania in the 1700s, they discovered the groundhog to be comparable to the European hedgehog. (Groundhogday.org)
As most know, the largest Groundhog Day celebration is in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. Its local celebrity: Punxsutawney Phil. Though Phil is the most commonly known, other popular groundhogs include Staten Island Chuck, General Beauregard Lee, And Wiarton Willie. (Wikipedia.com)
According to handlers John Griffiths and Ben Hughes, Phil weighs 15 pounds and thrives on dog food and ice cream in his climate-controlled home at the Punxsutawney Library. (StormFax.com)
In 2009, Alaska governor Sarah Palin changed the holiday to Marmot Day, as groundhogs are not prevalent in that state. (Wikipedia.com)
Sorry to spoil the fun, but meteorologist Mike Randall from WKBW in Buffalo, NY, stated: since there are always six more weeks of winter after Groundhog Day, and the concept of early spring in the astronomical sense simply does not exist, then whenever the groundhog sees its shadow and predicts six more weeks of winter, the groundhog is always right, but whenever it predicts an early spring, it is always wrong. The results have an approximate 80% rate of accuracy, the average percentage of times a groundhog sees its shadow. (Wikipedia.com)
Since the release of the 1993 film Groundhog Day, visitors to Punxsutawney have increased to over 35,000, five times the size of its population. (StormFax.com)