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Punxsutawney Phil predicts early spring this Groundhog Day

Punxsutawney Phil has officially declared that there will be an early spring this year instead of having six more weeks of winter.

On 2 February, Groundhog Day, the famous woodchuck was ready to either see or not see his shadow for the 138th time in history.

Prior to 2024, the groundhog had seen his shadow 107 times and not seen his shadow 20 times, according to the York Daily Record. There were a few years in the late 1800s where there was no record of his forecast, and 1943 was the only year he did not make an appearance.

Legend says that if Phil does not sees his shadow, the weather will get warmer faster and there will be an early spring, and if he does, winter will continue for the next six weeks.

In addition to Punxsutawney Phil, there are also other groundhogs across the nation: Buckeye Chuck in Ohio, General Beauregard Lee in Georgia and Staten Island Chuck in New York, who all emerged from burrows Friday morning to predict either the continuing winter or coming spring.

All of the groundhogs this year reached a consensus that there will be an early spring.

Since 1886, crowds as large as 40,000 have annually gathered in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, on the morning of 2 February to watch Punxsutawney Phil emerge from a burrow on Gobbler’s Knob.

In recent years, the annual festival has even been live-streamed to people as early as six in the morning, as members of the top hat-wearing Inner Circle announce the groundhog’s “forecast”.

Sure, Punxsutawney Phil’s weather predictions may not be totally accurate, but what’s the harm in celebrating a small, furry woodchuck each year? In fact, Groundhog Day is an interesting tradition full of history.

Punxsutawney Phil, the legendary groundhog who casts his prediction, has reputedly been operating in the Pennsylvania town for more than 130 years. Despite the lifespan of a groundhog usually being less than six years, the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club’s Inner Circle maintains they have been speaking to the same groundhog since 1887.

Punxsutawney’s first Groundhog Day in Gobbler’s Knob dates back to 2 February 1887, when the town’s newspaper editor Clymer Freas informed his readers: “Today is Groundhog Day and up to the time of going to press the beast has not seen its shadow.”

However, the tradition can be traced to the Christian religious holiday of Candlemas Day, when Christians would take their candles to the church to have them blessed. It wasn’t until Candlemas Day was introduced in Germany that an animal was brought into the lore, claiming that if a hedgehog saw his shadow on Candlemas Day there would be a “Second Winter” or six more weeks of bad weather.

After German settlers came to what is now the United States, the Pennsylvania Dutch and other German-speaking immigrants maintained the same tradition of Groundhog Day. But with the absence of hedgehogs in their new home, woodchucks were chosen instead.

The earliest known American reference to Groundhog Day was in a Morgantown shopkeeper’s journal entry dated 4 February 1841.

“Last Tuesday, the 2nd, was Candlemas Day, the day on which, according to the Germans, the Groundhog peeps out of his winter quarters and if he sees his shadow he pops back for another six weeks nap,” the entry reads, per the National Weather Service. “But if the day be cloudy he remains out, as the weather is to be moderate.”