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Our fate lies in the paws of an immortal groundhog

Posted on February 02 2021

Our fate lies in the paws of an immortal groundhog

Map and Story by Ali Harford


Punxsutawney Phil is an immortal weather-predicting groundhog who will, on February 2, emerge from his burrow on Gobbler’s Knob and determine our winter fates: if he sees his shadow, we’ll have six more weeks of winter. At least, so says the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club in Pennsylvania, which hails Phil as the only valid immortal weather-predicting groundhog in the world. If you’re celebrating Groundhog Day, it simply has to be with Phil.


The town has loyally celebrated Groundhog Day every year since the first official celebration on February 2, 1886. Phil (who also goes by “Seer of Seers” and “Prognosticator of all Prognosticators”) is a worldwide celebrity: last year, over 20,000 people attended the celebration, according to members of the Club. Phil also has his own Cameo, so people can buy custom videos from him and his handlers, who are known as the “Inner Circle”—which is hilarious, and amazing.  


Jeff Grube, a member of the Inner Circle, said his favorite part of Groundhog Day is seeing all the people—the “regulars,” especially.


“Everybody is in a really good mood, they’re here to celebrate, and have fun,” Grube said.


Groundhog Day began as the Christian holiday of Candlemas Day, when Christians took their household candles to the church to be blessed. Then, when they burned the candles at home, the blessings would take hold. If Candlemas Day was bright, winter would last longer, but if the day was cloudy, spring was on its way. This lore eventually evolved into an animal seeing its shadow to predict the oncoming weather.


Groundhog Day is a day to “take everything a little less seriously and break up the winter monotony,” the Groundhog Club says. This year, the Punxsutawney event will be celebrated virtually, but you can watch live at Phil did see his shadow this morning, predicting six more weeks of winter, but don’t worry: according to the Stormfax Almanac, Phil’s predictions have only been correct 39% of the time.


Above, explore our map of groundhog habitats in North America, and how likely the groundhogs are to see their shadows according to recent weather data.  


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