Groundhog Day: is Phil feeling lucky this year?

By Dave Damiano
February 1, 2007

Meghan Hurley

Friday, Feb. 2 continues the tradition that has been set upon us since the 1800s: Groundhog Day. The earliest reference to Groundhog Day was recorded on Feb. 4, 1841 in Morgantown, Pa. During the fifth century many European Celts believed that animals had supernatural powers on days that were halfway between winter and spring.

German folklore indicated that whenever bears and marmots came out of their winter hibernation too early, they were scared by their shadow and often retreated back for four to six weeks. This was later taken by the Romans and named as Hedgehog Day during the Festival of Februa, which takes place on Feb. 2. Hedgehog Day is basically the same premise; it just involves a hibernating hedgehog, ending with the same results.

Thus began Groundhog Day. Every year in Punxsutawney, Pa. a festival is held to celebrate the groundhog. Each year, the groundhog, which goes by the name Punxsutawney Phil, is hauled out of his hole to determine the outcome. This year, it is believed, at approximately 7:25 a.m., Phil will be taken out of his hole, and if he sees his shadow, it is considered an omen of six more weeks of winter. If he does not see his shadow, then it is believed that an early spring is on the horizon.

According to, Phil’s predictions are correct 100 percent of the time. Over the last seven years, Phil has seen his shadow, meaning there will be six more weeks of winter. And since they started keeping records in 1887, Phil saw his shadow 96 times out of 119. There have been 14 years without a shadow, and nine years in which there was no record.

The popularity of Groundhog Day has spread all across the United States and Canada and was even made into a major motion picture of the same name in 1993 starring Bill Murray and Andie MacDowell. Even though the film was not filmed in Punxsutawney, Bill Murray and director Harold Ramis have both been honorary grand marshals at the festivities.

Many festivities including fireworks, live entertainment and music, start the day off at 3 a.m. During this time, there is also a breakfast buffet, souvenir shop, an annual art show, and a scavenger hunt. The events end around midnight of Feb. 3.

There has hardly been a winter this year, with temperatures recording up to 60 degrees throughout certain days in December. Many wonder if the cold weather is going to stay or if we will have an early spring, but the question on everyone’s mind this Groundhog Day is, does Phil feel lucky?

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Dave Damiano

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