February 2nd is Groundhog Day when Punxsutawney Phil makes his famous folklore weather prediction. This year though, Phil will make his annual prognostication from Gobbler’s Knob in the Pennsylvania town virtually with no live audience thanks to the ongoing pandemic. But now, you can watch Phil yourself as the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club live-streams the event. You best get up early though. Phil usually appears out of his burrow at about 7:20 AM EST – that is 4:20 AM Pacific Time.
Visit https://www.groundhog.org/ for all the information about this annual historic day and how you can watch Phil make his famous furry weather prediction.
There is a great deal of history behind this folklore and the annual ceremony in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, going back centuries. It all started in Europe when Christians would take their candles to church to have them blessed on Candlemas Day – February 2nd, and return home with the candles bringing those blessings to their household for the rest of winter.
Over time, the day evolved. This English folk song highlights the transition to weather prognostication.
If Candlemas be fair and bright,
Come, Winter, have another flight;
If Candlemas brings clouds and rain,
Go Winter, and come not again.
This form of Candlemas Day became the norm for most of Europe. Decades later in Germany, an animal was introduced into the lore, another evolution of February 2nd. According to German lore, if the hedgehog saw his shadow on Candlemas Day, there would be a “Second Winter” or 6 more weeks of bad weather.
As German settlers came to what is now the United States, so too did their traditions and folklore. With the absence of hedgehogs in the United States, a similar hibernating animal was chosen, leading to yet another evolution in the legend and to present day Punxsutawney.
The Punxsutawney event was first documented by storekeeper James Morris of nearby Morgantown, Pennsylvania on Feb 4th, 1841. He states: ‘Last Tuesday the 2nd was Candlemas Day, the day of which according to the Germans, the Groundhog peeps out of his winter quarters and if he sees his shadow, he pops back for another 6 weeks nap, but if the day is cloudy, he remains out as the weather is to be moderate.’
This diary entry offers some meteorology. Winter surface high pressure in the eastern U.S. often results in sunny skies and cold temperatures. So if the Groundhog finds sunshine on February 2nd, winter is still likely in progress. If it is cloudy, then a more moderate weather pattern is already underway.
Since 1887, Groundhog Day has been celebrated on Gobbler’s Knob in Punxsutawney on February 2nd. This year’s celebration will be the 135th, and usually attracts tens of thousands of visitors. With the pandemic though, this year’s celebration will be virtual. Again, you can witness Punxsutawney Phil come out of his burrow and make his folklore weather prediction at https://www.groundhog.org/ Just keep in mind it will occur at an early hour in the Pacific Time zone, shortly after 4 AM.
Does Punxsutawney Phil’s weather forecast apply to the North Sound? In reality, no. The weather in the Keystone State is so much different than this region. But it is still fun to learn what Phil sees when he pops out of his burrow.