Groundhog Punxsutawney Phil made his appearance at Gobbler’s Knob and saw his shadow at around 7:25 a.m. Wednesday, which means six more weeks of winter.
Pennsylvania’s most famous groundhog made his appearance at sunrise to throngs of fans gathered at the 135th Groundhog Day celebration, the largest event in history, according to the Inner Circle of Punxsutawney Groundhog Club.
Legend has it that if he sees his shadow, it means six more weeks of winter. If not, it’s an early spring. Of course, regardless of Phil’s prediction, the first day of spring is March 20.
The Groundhog Club’s Inner Circle is a group of local dignitaries responsible for carrying on the tradition of Groundhog Day every year.
The club members are not only responsible for planning the events every year, but they’re also responsible for the feeding and care of Phil himself.
Phil was joined by a record crowd in the small Jefferson County town. With help from the leaders of the Inner Circle, Phil pops out of a tree stump every Feb. 2 to make his prediction.
According to folklore, there will be six more weeks of winter if he sees his shadow. If he doesn’t, spring comes early.
The Christian religious holiday of Candlemas Day has become most commonly associated with the current celebration, but its roots are older than that.
The celebration started in Christianity as the day, (February 2nd), when Christians would take their candles to the church to have them blessed, to bring blessings to their household for the remaining winter.
As time rolled on the day evolved into another form.
This English folk song highlights the transition to weather prognostication:
If Candlemas be fair and bright,
Come, Winter, have another flight;
If Candlemas brings clouds and rain,
Go Winter, and come not again.
This “interpretation” of Candlemas Day became the norm for most of Europe. As you can read, there is no mention of an animal of any kind in the preceding song. It wasn’t until this traditional belief was introduced to Germany that an animal was introduced into the lore, hence another evolution of February 2nd.
If, according to German lore, the hedgehog saw his shadow on Candlemas Day there would be a “Second Winter” or six more weeks of bad weather.
As German settlers came to what is now the United States, so too came their traditions and folklore. With the absence of hedgehogs in the United States, a similar hibernating animal was chosen.
That led to yet another evolution in the legend and to present-day Punxsutawney.
In Punxsutawney, 1886 marked the first time that Groundhog Day appeared in the local newspaper. The following year brought the first official trek to Gobbler’s Knob. Each year since then has seen a steady increase in participation of the celebration from people all over the world.
Today, Groundhog Day remains what it was when the tradition first came to our shores and found its way to Punxsutawney. A day to take everything a little less seriously, and break up the winter monotony… at least for a little while!
The event took place virtually last year because of the coronavirus pandemic, depriving the community, which is about 65 miles northeast of Pittsburgh, of a boost from tourists.
It was streamed live and seen by more than 15,000 viewers worldwide, with about 150 cardboard cutouts of fans there to “watch.”
Thousands returned in person this year, making the 2022 event the largest celebration ever.