Groundhog Day, a tradition that began in the Dark Ages, is Wednesday, Feb. 2. Punxsutawney Phil, the rodent who gives the town of Punxsutawney, Penn., its annual moment in the national spotlight, is not likely to see his shadow on Groundhog Day 2011. The forecast there is for a wintery mix, which may give the northeast false hope that its harsh winter of 2010-11 may not continue for another six weeks.
Punxsutawney Phil right 39 percent of the time
Groundhog Day is a festive celebration in Punxsutawney, Penn., a town boasting a groundhog zoo and a huge statue in the Town Square of Punxsutawney Phil. Up to 40,000 people descend on this town of 6,300 to celebrate the occasion. On Feb. 2, Punxsutawney Phil will emerge from his burrow in the neighborhood of Gobbler’s Knob. The rodent will whisper his forecast into the ears of a group of dignitaries called the “Inner Circle,” who translate his forecast from “Groundhogese” to an anxious nation. In the past 119 Groundhog Days, Punxsutawney Phil has seen his shadow 99 times. But according to the Stormfax Almanac, Phil has only been right 39 percent of the time.
Groundhog Day origins
Groundhog Day can be traced back to medieval Europe, where ancient Pagan, Christian and Roman customs merged to become “Hedgehog Day” in Germany. “Imbolc,” a pagan Celtic festival involving weather superstitions, is Feb. 1. On “Candlemas,” a Christian holiday on Feb. 2, clear skies became associated with a longer winter. Romans also believed that conditions the first of February would portend future weather. Farmers in Germany would watch for a hedgehog to emerge from hibernation in late winter and believed that if it saw its shadow it would go back to bed. German immigrants brought the tradition to Pennsylvania, where the more common groundhog became the rodent of choice.
Groundhog Day 2011 weather
On Groundhog Day 2011, 21st century technology will merge with ancient superstition. Up until Feb. 2, people can sign up to receive Punxsutawney Phil’s prediction by texting “Groundhog” to 247-365. Those who do should keep in mind that they will be asked to submit an e-mail address that will be sent tourism-related promotions. Punxsutawney Phil will emerge to a 90 percent chance of snow, sleet and rain with a high of 33 degrees and a low of 11 degrees. According to the National Weather Service the seasonal outlook for the northeastern U.S. is for above normal precipitation and below normal temperatures.