“Groundhog Day, February 2nd, is a popular tradition in the United States. It is also a legend that traverses centuries, its origins clouded in the mists of time with ethnic cultures and animals awakening on specific dates. Myths such as this tie our present to the distant past when nature did, indeed, influence our lives. It is the day that the Groundhog comes out of his hole after a long winter sleep to look for his shadow.”
Report by Paula Antolini
February 2, 2015 11:08AM EDT
Today, February 2, 2015, is Groundhog Day. Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow and predicted 6 more weeks of winter. See the history below.
Every February 2, thousands gather at Gobbler’s Knob in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, to await the spring forecast from a special groundhog. Known as Punxsutawney Phil (link is external), this groundhog will emerge from his simulated tree trunk home and look for his shadow, which will help him make his much-anticipated forecast. According to legend, if Phil sees his shadow the United States is in store for six more weeks of winter weather. But, if Phil doesn’t see his shadow, the country should expect warmer temperatures and the arrival of an early spring.
History of Groundhog Day
Groundhog Day originates from an ancient celebration of the midway point between the winter solstice and the spring equinox—the day right in the middle of astronomical winter. According to superstition, sunny skies that day signify a stormy and cold second half of winter while cloudy skies indicate the arrival of warm weather.
The trail of Phil’s history leads back to Clymer H. Freas, city editor of the Punxsutawney Spirit newspaper. Inspired by a group of local groundhog hunters—whom he would dub the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club—Freas declared Phil as America’s official forecasting groundhog in 1887. As he continued to embellish the groundhog’s story year after year, other newspapers picked it up, and soon everyone looked to Punxsutawney Phil for the prediction of when spring would return to the country.
Groundhog Day History (from groundhog.org):
(Adapted from “Groundhog Day: 1886 to 1992” by Bill Anderson)
Groundhog Day, February 2nd, is a popular tradition in the United States. It is also a legend that traverses centuries, its origins clouded in the mists of time with ethnic cultures and animals awakening on specific dates. Myths such as this tie our present to the distant past when nature did, indeed, influence our lives. It is the day that the Groundhog comes out of his hole after a long winter sleep to look for his shadow.
If he sees it, he regards it as an omen of six more weeks of bad weather and returns to his hole.
If the day is cloudy and, hence, shadowless, he takes it as a sign of spring and stays above ground.
The groundhog tradition stems from similar beliefs associated with Candlemas Day and the days of early Christians in Europe, and for centuries the custom was to have the clergy bless candles and distribute them to the people. Even then, it marked a milestone in the winter and the weather that day was important.
According to an old English song:
If Candlemas be fair and bright,
Come, Winter, have another flight;
If Candlemas brings clouds and rain,
Go Winter, and come not again.
According to an old Scotch couplet:
If Candlemas Day is bright and clear,
There’ll be twa (two) winters in the year.
Another variation of the Scottish rhyme:
If Candlemas day be dry and fair,
The half o’ winter to come and mair,
If Candlemas day be wet and foul,
The half of winter’s gone at Yule.
The Roman legions, during the conquest of the northern country, supposedly brought this tradition to the Teutons, or Germans, who picked it up and concluded that if the sun made an appearance on Candlemas Day, an animal, the hedgehog, would cast a shadow, thus predicting six more weeks of bad weather, which they interpolated as the length of the “Second Winter.”
Pennsylvania’s earliest settlers were Germans and they found groundhogs to in profusion in many parts of the state. They determined that the groundhog, resembling the European hedgehog, was a most intelligent and sensible animal and therefore decided that if the sun did appear on February 2nd, so wise an animal as the groundhog would see its shadow and hurry back into its underground home for another six weeks of winter.
The Germans recited:
For as the sun shines on Candlemas Day,
So far will the snow swirl until the May.
This passage may be the one most closely represented by the first Punxsutawney Groundhog Day observances because there were references to the length of shadows in early Groundhog Day predictions.
Another February 2nd belief, used by American 19th century farmers, was:
Groundhog Day – Half your hay.
New England farmers knew that we were not close to the end of winter, no matter how cloudy February 2nd was. Indeed, February 2nd is often the heart of winter. If the farmer didn’t have half his hay remaining, there may have been lean times for the cows before spring and fresh grass arrived.
The ancient Candlemas legend and similar belief continue to be recognized annually on February 2nd due to the efforts of the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club.
From offering support of political events, to rooting for area sports teams, to becoming the star of a Hollywood movie, Punxsutawney Phil has increasingly been in the public eye.
Early observances of Phil’s predictions were conducted privately in the wooded areas that neighbor the town. Today’s celebration sees tens of thousands of visitors from all over the world as revelers await Phil’s appearance as most fans wait to see their favorite rock stars.
The Punxsutawney Spirit newspaper is credited with printing the news of the first observance in 1886 (one year before the first legendary trek to Gobbler’s Knob):
“Today is groundhog day, and up to the time of going to press the beast has not seen his shadow.”
Over the course of Phil’s appearances, Phil has had numerous noteworthy highlights:
During Prohibition Phil threatened to impose 60 weeks of winter on the community if he wasn’t allowed a drink.
In 1958 Phil announced that it was a “United States Chucknik,” rather than a Soviet Sputnik or Muttnik that became the first man-made satellite to orbit Earth.
In 1981 Phil wore a yellow ribbon in honor of the American hostages in Iran.
Phil traveled to Washington DC in 1986 to meet with President Reagan. He was joined by Groundhog Club President Jim Means, Al Anthony and Bill Null.
Phil met Pennsylvania Governor Dick Thornburg in 1987.
In 1993, Columbia Pictures released the movie Groundhog Day starring Bill Murray.
Phil appeared on the Oprah Winfrey show in 1995.
In the years following the release of the movie, record crowds numbering as high as 30,000 have visited Gobbler’s Knob in Punxsutawney!
In 2001, Phil’s prediction was shown live on the JumboTron at Times Square in New York City. Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell attended the ceremonies, making him the first sitting governor ever to do so.
Stephen Tobolowsky, who played Ned Ryserson, in the movie Groundhog Day, attended the 2010 Groundhog Day Celebration in Punxsutawney.
Danny Rubin, writer of the screenplay Groundhog Day, attended Groundhog Day 2013. This was the first time he attend Groundhog Day since before the movie was released. He addressed the crowd by starting out with, “My, how you have grown.”
Past Predictions from 1886-2014:
1886 Groundhog Day first recognized in Punxsutawney by
1887 First Official trek to Gobbler’s Knob Saw Shadow.
1888 Saw Shadow.
1889 No Record.
1890 No Shadow.
1891 No Record.
1892 No Record.
1893 No Record.
1894 No Record.
1895 No Record.
1896 No Record.
1897 No Record.
1898 Saw Shadow.
1899 No Record.
1900 Saw Shadow.
1901 Saw Shadow.
1902 Probably No Shadow.
1903 Saw Shadow.
1904 Saw Shadow.
1905 Saw Shadow.
1906 Saw Shadow.
1907 Saw Shadow.
First Official Trek to Gobblers Knob
1908 Saw Shadow;
First front page coverage.
1909 Saw Shadow.
1910 Saw Shadow.
1911 Saw Shadow; “55 couples at Groundhog Day Dance.”
1912 Saw Shadow.
1913 Saw Shadow at 8:08 AM; first newspaper photo of Groundhog by John Frampton. A new dance “The Groundhog
Roll” was demonstrated by Joe Winslow.
1914 Saw Shadow at 9:34 AM, Groundhog demonstrated “The Groundhog Flop”
1915 Saw Shadow at 11:45 AM; His name – Wiley William Woodchuck!
1916 Saw Shadow at 9:07; First films of the event.
1917 Saw Shadow at 9:07.
1918 Saw Shadow; Temperature 18 below zero.
1919 Saw Shadow.
1920 Saw Shadow.
1921 Saw Shadow at 7:17 AM.
1922 Saw Shadow 7:11 AM; Groundhog Holiday Dance.
1923 Saw Shadow.
1924 Saw Shadow 7:13 AM; First appearance of logo with groundhog with umbrella and newspaper 1925. Saw Shadow 8:13 AM; CJ Margiotti gave groundhog tradition to the Pittsburgh Travel Club.
1926 Saw Shadow at 9:17 AM.
1927 Saw Shadow at 8:35 AM.
1928 Saw Shadow at 10 AM; Program with Punx’y Rotary Club was on KDKA Radio.
1929 Predicted six more weeks of winter before sunrise.
1930 Saw Shadow at 7:11 AM.
1931 Saw Shadow at 12:27 AM.
1932 Saw Shadow at 9:11 AM.
1933 Saw Shadow.
1934 No Shadow.
1935 Saw Shadow at 9:11 AM.
1936 Saw Shadow at 10:27 AM.
1937 Saw Shadow at 9:09 AM; Unfortunate meeting with a skunk.
1938 Saw Shadow at 9 AM; Blackest shadow in history.
1939 Saw Shadow at 9:10 AM.
1940 Saw Shadow at 9 AM; Pictured with first Groundhog Day Queen, Miss Margaret Hunam.
1941 Saw Shadow at 4:25 PM; Six Groundhog Girls.
1942 Partial Shadow at 7:40 AM; “War clouds have blacked out parts of the shadow.” (“The Spirit,” Feb. 2, 1942).
1943 Groundhog didn’t make an appearance; need to rely on Quarryville’s prediction.
1944 Saw Shadow at 9:10 AM.
1945 Saw Shadow at 9 AM.
1946 Saw Shadow at 7:52 AM.
1947 Saw Shadow at 7:37 AM; First newspaper photo of Groundhog Club members at Gobbler’s Knob.
1948 Saw Shadow at 8:46 AM; Dr. Frank Lorenzo was interviewed on KDKA Radio’s “Brunch With Bill” program.
1949 Saw Shadow at 7:32 AM.
1950 No Shadow; Colleen Townsend, actress, was in town to promote the film, “When Willie Comes Marching Home.”
1951 Saw Shadow at 8:41 AM; Pictured with cheerleaders from PHS and SSCD. Betty Byers, Joan Wadding, Dorothy Armstrong and Kathleen Spinelli. 1952 Saw Shadow at 7:52 AM; First appearance of Frau Groundhog, Groundhog procession and shadow.
Casting was on Dave Garroway’s TV Show on NBC on Monday, February 4.
1953 Saw Shadow at 7:38 AM; First year with Sam Light as Groundhog Club president; First Man-of-the-Year Award goes to Ben Levy.
1954 Saw Shadow at 8:03 AM; The groundhog was turned completely white from worry.
1955 Saw Shadow at 8:51 AM; 4-inch snowfall on Groundhog Day; Coverage on three TV stations.
1956 Saw Shadow 8:33 AM.
1957 Saw Shadow 7:47 AM.
1958 Saw Shadow at 8:27 AM; Prepared for blast-off in his “Chucknik” spacecraft; First Woman-of-the-Year Award was given to Mrs. Louis (Olive) Woodring.
1959 Saw Shadow at 8:23 AM; Announces that he has returned from a successful trip to the moon. Saw Shadow at 7:33 AM, forecasts extremely bad weather; appearance on the “Today” show.
1961 Saw Shadow at 7:41 AM; 25 below zero.
1962 Saw Shadow at 7:29 AM; Just returned from second trip to the moon.
1963 Saw Shadow at 7:41 AM; Unusually dark shadow.
1964 Saw Shadow.
1965 Saw Shadow shortly before 8 AM.
1966 Saw Shadow at 7:21 AM.
1967 Saw Shadow 7:25 AM.
1968 Saw Shadow 7:29 AM.
1969 Saw Shadow 7:29 AM.
1970 No Shadow.
1971 Saw Shadow at 7:29 AM; 14 below zero.
1972 Saw Shadow 7:30 AM.
1973 Saw Shadow 7:29 AM.
1974 Saw Shadow 8:28 AM.
1975 No Shadow; Declared at 7:31 AM.
1976 Saw Shadow at 7:29 AM.
1977 Saw Shadow at 7:27; In midst of energy crisis.
1978 Saw Shadow at 7:28 AM.
1979 Saw Shadow at 7:28 AM.
1980 Saw Shadow at 7:29 AM.
1981 Saw Shadow at 7:27 AM.
1982 Saw Shadow 7:26 AM; After coldest January in more than a century.
1983 No Shadow; Peered over at 7:29 AM, but saw no shadow; predicted an early spring after a mild winter.
1984 Saw Shadow shortly after 7 AM.
1985 Saw Shadow at 7:28 AM.
1986 No Shadow!
Visited President Reagan at the White House in March.
1987 Saw Shadow 7:29 AM.
1988 No Shadow.
1989 Saw Shadow.
1990 No Shadow.
1991 Saw Shadow.
1992 Saw Shadow.
1993 Saw Shadow. “Groundhog Day” The movie with Bill Murray was released in time for PHIL’S Prediction.
1994 Saw Shadow 7:28 AM.
1995 No Shadow. Guested on the Oprah Winfrey TV Show and made new fans.
1996 Saw Shadow 7:21. So cold he dug deep to make his prediction.
1997 No Shadow 7:25AM. Made his 110th prediction. Largest crowd the Knob has seen 35,000 people. Saw Shadow 7:20AM Six more weeks of “El Nino” Winter. Over 15,000 people celebrated as Phil saw no shadow at 7:23 AM and predicted and early spring.
2000 It was the dawn of a new “Phillenium” and 12-degrees at Gobbler’s Knob when Phil saw his shadow at 7:28 AM.
2001 Phil’s prediction of 6 more weeks of winter weather was displayed on the Astrovision in New York’s Time Square.
2002 Phil saw his shadow at the largest event in 116 year history with estimated 30,000 people celebrating 02/02/02
2003 Phil saw his shadow at 7:25 AM as Pennsylvania’s newly elected Governor Ed Rendell looked on from Gobbler’s Knob.
2004 Phil saw his shadow at 7:27 in 8 degree weather. Event was webcast live on www.groundhog.org.
2005 The sky was clear as Phil saw his shadow before an enthusiastic crowd of 10-18,000. The time was 7:31 a.m. It was Phil’s 119th prediction. Phil saw his shadow while wearing his Steeler “Terrible Towel” at 7:25 a.m. The temperature was a balmy 38 degrees. It was a cloudy morning with light snow flurries when Phil emerged from his burrow at about 7:26 a.m. and did not see his shadow.
2008 At 7:28 a.m. it was 29 degrees. In front of one of the largest crowds ever at Gobblers’ Knob, Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow.
2009 At 7:26 Phil saw his shadow and Inner Circle President Bill Cooper completed his final interpretation and retired at
Gobblers Knob. SAW SHADOW 98, NO SHADOW 15, NO RECORD 10.
2008 It was 29 degrees. In front of one of the largest crowds ever at Gobblers Knob
2009 Phil saw his shadow and Inner Circle President Bill Cooper completed his final interpretation and retired at Gobblers Knob. It was 7:26 a.m.
2010 Phil saw his shadow and told his prediction to new Inner Circle President Bill Deeley.
2011 No shadow, spring is near!
2012 Phil saw his shadow, Six More Weeks of Winter!
2013 No Shadow, Spring is near!
2014 Phil saw his shadow! Six more weeks of winter!