The custom of predicting future weather conditions based on animals dates back at least a thousand years, but using February 2nd to forecast a longer winter is more recent than that.
It was during the Dark Ages in Europe that this widespread superstition took
hold. That was when peasants and farmers first noticed a strong connection between a bright, sunny, medieval Candlemas Day and long, dreary winter weather extending into the next 6 weeks:
If Candlemas be fair and bright, Winter has another flight.
If Candlemas brings clouds and rain, Winter will not come again.
With German farmers, meanwhile, it was the hedgehog that played a major role in a similar belief as they watched the hibernating animal come out of his burrow in late winter.
If the hedgehog saw his shadow on a bright, sunlit day he would quickly return to hibernate...and thus put the official stamp on a prediction of six more weeks of winter. German settlers later brought the old belief with them to Pennsylvania, replacing the hedgehog with the more common American groundhog.
In popular culture, the 1993 film comedy Groundhog
Day was a major hit for star Bill
Murray, bringing Punxsutawney Phil's popularity to new heights.
Another Groundhog Day fun fact? In 2014, February 2nd marked the first time that the Super Bowl and Groundhog Day happened on the same day. And for the second time in history it happens again -- in 2020!
Today, Pennsylvania-born groundhog Punxsutawney Phil is a minor celebrity. This sleepy groundhog may be the most famous weather forecaster in the USA.
Each year, the world's paparazzi hold vigil in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania on February 2 as America waits with frosted breath for Phil to emerge.
Worldwide, viewers can also watch the momentous event unfold live at visitpa.com during a Groundhog Day live streaming demonstration.
So... can we count on an early spring or will there be six more weeks of winter?