Groundhog Day

Stephen Williams

The childhood tale

Early spring or six more weeks of
winter? One groundhog holds the
sole responsibility to determine the
nation’s future weather. On Tuesday
February 2, Punxsutawney Phil
did not see his shadow, meaning this
year will have an early spring.
Punxsutawney Phil is the official
groundhog residing in Punxsutawney,
Pa. Although groundhogs only
have a life expectancy of ten years,
Punxsutawney Phil has been forecasting
the weather for over 120
years.
A group called the Inner Circle
takes care of Phil year-round. They
feed him dog food and ice cream,
delivered to his heated home in-
Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania.
Every summer at the Groundhog
Picnic the Inner Circle gives
Phil a sip of a special mystery drink
called “Groundhog Punch,” that
lengthens his life by seven years.
There are a couple of theories for
how Phil tells the world of his prediction.
They also decide whether
the groundhog sees his shadow or not
several days in advance of Groundhog’s
Day. The Inner Circle does this
when Punxsutawney Phil leaves his
burrow in January, and they declare
if he sees his shadow when Phil actually
sees his shadow, whenever that
may be.
Members of the Inner Circle are
recognizable by their black top hats
and tuxedoes. According to the official
Grounhog’s Day website, the Inner
Circle and Punxsutawney Phil are
like family.
The second speculation is that Phil
himself tells the Groundhog Club
President his prediction in Grounhogese,
which is then translated into
English and relayed to the masses.
Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania is
known as, “the weather capital of the
world.”

The bleak reality

The superstition of Groundhog
Day originated when German settlers
arrived in the 1700s. They brought
with them a tradition known as Candlemas
Day. Since the tradition says
that an animal has to cast a shadow to
predict six more weeks of winter, the
settlers in Pennsylvania decided to
use the groundhog because they wake
up from their hibernation earlier than
most animals.
Even though Groundhog Day is a
fun holiday to celebrate, Punxsutawney
Phil does not actually have to see
his shadow, he just has to cast one
to make the prophecy (they do this
when Phil leaves his burrow for the
first time in January). However, Phil’s
ability to predict the weather is dubious
at best, with a rate of 36% accuracy
from 1969.
However, Groundhog Day has not
always gone smoothly. The first incident
occurred in 2009 when the New
York groundhog bit Mayor Michael
Bloomberg after he pinched
it by mistake. In 2014, Mayor Bill
de Blasio accidentally dropped their
version of Punxsutawney Phil,
named Staten Island Chuck, after
the groundhog squirmed and broke
loose from the mayor’s hands. The
groundhog landed on the pavement
and was severely injured. He died
of internal bleeding a week later.
Phil’s predictions became popular
after the 1993 movie “Groundhog
Day” starring Bill Murray. Phil
is now greeted every year by over
30,000 people. Even though people
do not consider the rodent an accurate
weather man, people love the
conspiracy theories surrounding
him. Like how an inner circle feeds
him an elixir of life to make him live
longer? Whatever the case may be,
people simply love celebrating this
unusual holiday.

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