by Kimberly Bowman Every February 2nd since 1886, Punxsutawney Phil, a groundhog living in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, predicted whether there would be six more weeks of winter or an early spring depending on if he saw his shadow or not. According to legend, if the groundhog sees his shadow, there are six weeks of winter left, but if not, spring will come early.
The tradition started as Candlemas Day, “a celebration of the midpoint between the winter solstice and spring equinox,” according to Jason Samenow, a staff writer for The Washington Post. Candlemas Day was a time for Christians to take their candles to the church to be blessed, which they believed would bring blessings to them for the rest of winter. In Germany, over time, the custom transformed into a hedgehog predicting the weather. Without hedgehogs in the United States, the ritual changed again, and another hibernating animal was chosen.
In fact, Phil isn’t the only animal that can see the future–there are many other groundhogs all over America, including Buckeye Chuck, who lives in Ohio, and Staten Island Chuck, a resident of New York’s Staten Island Zoo. However, Punxsutawney Phil’s website claims that he “is the only true weather forecasting groundhog. The others are just impostors.”
This year, on Sunday, February 2nd, Phil predicted an early spring, which is fairly rare. In the 134 years that the practice has been happening, Phil has only declared an early spring 20 times, although ten years aren’t in the records.
In Punxsutawney at the park called Gobbler’s Knob this year, where Phil lives, there were over 40,000 people waiting for Phil’s prediction, which is a new record since 1997, when there were 35,000 people in attendance. Since then, the average attendance is about 20,000 people every year.
According to the Live Science Staff, “Data from the Stormfax Almanac’s data shows that Phil’s six-week prognostications have been correct about 39 percent of the time,” which means that there would be a higher chance of accuracy if you flipped a coin.
While experts say that groundhogs can only live ten years in captivity, meaning that there would have been many groundhog weather-prognosticators over the years, Phil’s official website explains that “Punxsutawney Phil gets his longevity from drinking the ‘elixir of life,’ … [and] takes one sip every summer… and it magically gives him seven more years of life.”