On Feb. 2 of each year, according to tradition, the world’s most famous groundhog announces whether or not winter will soon end by either climbing out of his western Pennsylvania burrow, or retreating back to bed.
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But how did a groundhog graduate to meteorologist? Here are a few little-known facts about :
1. The first Groundhog Day was celebrated in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania in 1886, but it has far deeper roots than that. Historians trace its origin back to Candlemas, a European tradition that said that if a hedgehog saw its shadow the morning of Feb. 2, we haven’t seen the last of winter. The hedgehog was later changed to groundhog when German settlers reached Pennsylvania and realized that groundhogs were plentiful, while hedgehogs were nowhere to be found.
2. The folks that started the American tradition were actually groundhog hunters. The first group to make the morning trek to Gobbler’s Knob -- Phil’s alleged home -- were actually a group of hunters called “The Punxsutawney Groundhog Club.” Of course, they decided to let Phil live, as astounded as they were by his weather-forecasting abilities.
3. Punxsutawney Phil is a magical groundhog that lives forever. OK, maybe not really, but according to the folks of the current Punxsutawney Groundhog Club, Phil drinks a special elixir every year that gives him seven more years of life. Not a bad deal, considering that the average groundhog only lives six to eight years -- which might suggest that there have been at least 18 different Phils over the years.
4. …And he’s married. Another admirable attribute to Phil’s long lifespan is, allegedly, his wife Phyllis. Most of the year, the happy couple lives in the Punxsutawney Library, up until Feb. 2, when he is moved to the heated burrow at Gobbler’s Knob to make his 7:25 a.m. curtain call.
5. Tens of thousand of people make the pilgrimage to Punxsutawney every year to see Phil make his prediction. It’s not easy being the world’s most famous groundhog -- especially since the eponymous 1993 movie starring Bill Murray. Fans come in droves to see the event, which is also televised. And Phil is even tech-savvy; he can text you his prediction, if you text “Groundhog” to 247365 on Groundhog Day.
And one more bonus fact… Punxsutawney Phil’s full name, as deemed by the 1887 Punxsutawney Groundhog Club, is “Punxsutawney Phil, Seer of Seer, Sage of Sages, Prognosticator of Prognosticators and Weather Prophet Extraordinaire.” Say that 10 times fast!
How accurate will Punxsutawney Phil’s weather prediction be for 2013? Feel free to share your logical (or even illogical) reasoning in comments!