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  • Hannah Wiley

The Fun but Slightly Disturbing History of Groundhog Day

By: Hannah Wiley

Feb. 2 holds what is arguably the most iconic and celebrated holiday to ever exist… Groundhog Day! Every year, the entire country waits eagerly for the news of whether the world's favorite groundhog saw his shadow or not.

Groundhog Day originated from a Pennsylvania Dutch superstition that if, on Feb. 2, the groundhog emerges from its burrow and sees its shadow, it’ll go back into the burrow for six more weeks. If it doesn’t see its shadow, that means we get an early spring! Even before that, in the German tradition, Groundhog Day was Badger Day, and it was celebrated on the Roman Catholic festival of Candlemas by the Roman Catholic and Lutheran churches. Similar to Groundhog Day, if the badger saw its shadow on Candlemas, then winter would last for another four weeks. Lucky for us after all of this Buffalo snow, this year Punxsutawney Phil’s shadow was missing, granting us an early spring!

A lot of people know about Groundhog Day from the 1993 film of the same name starring Bill Murray. Groundhog Day, however, brings us more than a classic holiday and film: it also brings us the one, the only… Punxsutawney Phil straight out of Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania! Personally, Punxsutawney Phil makes me proud to be a Pennsylvanian (and so does Taylor Swift). 

Something a lot of people might not know is that Punxsutawney Phil is an A-list celebrity. In 1960 he appeared on the “Today Show,” in 1986 he visited the White House and in 1995 he even appeared on the “Oprah Winfrey Show”!

 However, in a sad, sad twist, Phil, before he was an A-lister…was merely lunch. In the nineteenth century, after Phil made his prediction for the next six weeks, the community would celebrate by eating him. Luckily for Phil, eventually everyone realized his worth, and he became the celebrity we know and love today!

All across the country, other states and cities have followed Phil’s legacy with their own animals, like Chuck in Staten Island, New York, Pierre E. Shadeaux of Louisiana, Buckeye Chuck of Ohio and Thistle the Whistle-Pig of, more specifically, Cleveland, Ohio, but we all know Phil is easily the most cherished of the bunch. 

As a Pennsylvanian, Groundhog Day is the day of the year we all anticipate. Punxsutawney Phil put us on the map! Yes, Phil might only have a 39% accuracy rate, but we love him and we cherish his work as our favorite annual weatherman!

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