At the curiously-named Gobbler’s Knob, in the town of Punxsutawney, western Pennsylvania, just a few moments ago, the little furry form of Punxsutawney Phil cautiously emerged, sniffed around for a bit… and then quietly muttered in Groundhogese, “I see no shadow this year, spring is near.”
So according to the seer of seers, the prognosticator of prognosticators, 2012 is set for a short cold spell, and a welcome early thaw. The pronouncement brought cheers from the thousands of people gathered for the annual event at the tiny town, which is about 65 miles northeast of Pittsburgh.
The tradition of making a small, furry mammal appear and predict the rest of the winter’s weather dates back to 1887, and was actually invented as a ratings-boosting ploy for the local rag.
Although the tradition, technically dating back to Candlemas Day, was in full swing back then, the editor of said rag decided that “Punxsutawney Phil”, a groundhog he evidently had particular affection for, would be the one and only official voice of mammalian weather forecasting for the region, no doubt helping reader figures of the official newspaper partner along the way.
According to legend, if Punxsutawney Phil emerges and sees his shadow, there will be six more weeks of winter weather. If he doesn’t see his shadow, there will be an early spring.
2012…Phil saw his shadow, so another six weeks of cold weather
2011…No shadow this year, spring is near!
2010…The all-wise woodchuck saw his shadow for the third year in a row
2009…Phil saw his shadow again , so no early thaw
2008…The furry forecaster show his shadow, so six more weeks of winter
Skip forward 120 years and this quaint local tradition, always conducted on 2nd February – and helped along in popularity in 1993 by the comedic talents of Bill Murray, 20 years ago this year – attracts crowds of around 20,000 and is broadcast live on the web. You can catch the highlights on the Groundhog Organisation website.
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