Pennsylvania’s Most Famous Groundhog is Back

Groundhog smiling at a camera. A groundhog looking at the camera. (Credit via Pixabay)

Aliyah Williams 

Pennsylvania’s most famous groundhog, Punxsutawney Phil, will return on Thursday, Feb. 2 for Groundhog Day.  

Legend has it that if Phil sees his shadow, then the winter weather will continue for six weeks, but if he does not see it, warmer temperatures and spring are thought to come sooner.  

“I think, or am at least hopeful that Phil ends up not seeing his shadow this year,” said freshman biochemistry major Donald Francois.  

The first official Groundhog Day was held in 1887 and modeled after the legend of Candlemas, a Christian celebration that symbolized the midpoint between the winter solstice and spring equinox, according to the National Centers for Environmental Information.  

Ministers of the church would bless candles and pass them out to the people, and in some parts of Europe, it was believed that having Candlemas on a sunny day meant another 40 days of winter.  

This celebration was then adopted by Germans, who pronounced that the day was sunny only if smaller animals were able to see their shadows.  

While settling in Pennsylvania, German immigrants brought this tradition with them, the beginning of the modern Groundhog Day.  

According to the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club, a local newspaper editor named Clymer Freas convinced a group of businessmen and groundhog hunters to invest in the official festivities in 1886. 

Originally, the groundhog was called Br’er Groundhog and was not given the name Phil until 1961, with his namesake being an unspecified “King Phillip.”  

Now, the Groundhog Day celebration is popular throughout the United States, with up to 30,000 people coming to see Phil and generating about $1 million a year in profit for the local city, according to the Punxsutawney Chamber of Commerce.  

While the celebration centers on Phil, it also includes members of the Inner Circle, a branch of the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club made up of 15 people who protect Phil throughout the year.  

These members dress in traditional Pennsylvania Dutch clothing and speak in their customary dialect during the ceremony.  

As onlookers await the forecast early in the morning, Phil is summoned out of his burrow to begin the festivities.  

But Phil’s influence lies far beyond only the weather.  

His presence has grown in politics and on social media since his initial introduction. 

According to the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club, Phil openly disliked Prohibition, threatening to impose 60 more weeks of winter if he did not receive a drink.  

In 1986, he visited President Ronald Reagan and later made appearances on popular shows such as “The Oprah Winfrey Show” and the “CBS Early Show.”  

The fame of the holiday even inspired a movie, titled “Groundhog Day,” which starred the popular actor Bill Murray and made $105 million at the box office, according to IMDb.  

The 2023 Groundhog Day forecast seems to have a bleak outlook since Phil’s predictions for the past four consecutive years have ruled that there would be six more weeks of winter.  

“Summer is my favorite season and I am tired of the cold winter weather,” said Francois. “So let’s hope that Phil’s predictions lean toward spring.”