• Groundhog Day 2018: What you need to know

    By: Megan McClellan

    Updated:

    Groundhog Day 2018 is Punxsutawney Phil's 132nd prognostication! It has turned into a time for the country to either be happy or be made with a rodent. Legend has it, if Punxsutawney Phil sees his shadow, six more weeks of winter are headed our way. If Phil doesn't see his shadow, supposedly spring will come early.

    Here are some things you might not have known about this fun celebration:

    Background: The groundhog tradition comes from Candlemas Day with early Christians in Europe. Clergy would bless candles and pass them to the people. An old English song says similar things to our current groundhog statements:

    If  Candlemas be fair and bright,

    Come, Winter, have another flight;

    If Candlemas brings clouds and rain,

    Go Winter, and come not again.

    Supposedly, the Romans brought this tradition to the Germans that concluded if the sun made an appearance on Candlemas Day, an animal would cast a shadow, thus predicting more winter.

    Since Pennsylvania's earliest settlers were Germans and they found groundhogs to resemble the European hedgehog, the tradition moves to groundhogs in America.

    First Celebration: The Punxsutawney Groundhog Club credits The Punxsutawney Spirit newspaper with printing the first observance in 1886 followed the next year by the first trek to Gobbler's Knob.

    What about Phil? According to the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club’s website, Punxsutawney Phil weighs about 20 pounds and is 22 inches long. The club also notes that there has been only one Phil, crediting his longevity to drinking a secret “groundhog punch” every summer at the Groundhog Picnic. The brew adds seven years to Phil’s life every summer, according to legend.

    How accurate is Phil? Before this year, Phil has seen his shadow 103 times since 1887, and did not see his shadow 18 times. The other years have not been accounted for, the club said.

    Fun Facts:

    • Legend says that Punxsutawney Phil was actually named after King Phillip. Prior to being called Phil, he was called Br'er Groundhog.
    • A groundhog's diet consists of lots of greens, fruits, and vegetables and very little water. Most of their liquids come from dewy leaves.
    • Groundhogs hibernate over the winter, and the males actually do come out of their burrows in February, interested in lining up future mating partners. They check out the burrows of the lady groundhogs, then go back into their burrows and hibernate until around early March, when it’s time to mate.
    • Groundhogs aren’t the only creatures thought to predict winter. Back in the late 1940s, Charles Howard Curran, an entomologist and the curator of the American Museum of Natural History in New York, began studying woolly bear caterpillars, which are tiger moth in its larvae stage, in early autumn. The woolly bear’s front and end are black, and the midsection is brown. Curran believed the wider the brown band, the milder the winter would be. Present-day entomologists say there’s no science to back up Curran’s claim.

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