Punxsutawney Phil The simple origins and his strange powers


On Sunday, February 2, the famous soothsayer and weather witch, Punxsutawney Phil will emerge from his den and condemn us to 6 more weeks of snow and cold and rain and cold and snow. But will he? This year has been a mild winter really (knock on wood). And if it stays as grey and overcast as it has, he might not see his shadow. Right? There’s hope…maybe.

Groundhog Day has been referenced as far back as 1841 and was officially celebrated for the first time on February 2, 1887, in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. But the sanctity of the day itself is ancient. February 2 marks the midway point between the winter solstice and the spring equinox. The Celts celebrated it as a festival that marks the beginning of spring called Imbolc. As Christianity spread through the region, Imbolc became Candlemas, commemorating the appearance of Jesus in Jerusalem. Christians believed that a sunny Candlemas predicted another 40 days of cold.

Not to be outdone, the Germans took it one step further and only pronounced the day sunny if badgers or other small animals were able to glimpse their shadows. The Germans that settled in Pennsylvania in the early 1800s brought the tradition with them. They choose the native groundhog as the new purveyor of weather premonition. Our fate was set.

Now, we wait with bated breath as we find out if that silly little groundhog in Pennsylvania is ready to come out and play or take another nap. If the legend is true, maybe I’m okay with a bit of cloudy weather for this weekend only.


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