In case you can't keep it straight: if the sun shines and that little devil, PUXATAWNEY PHIL, sees his shadow, we get six more weeks of winter.
They've been celebrating this thing in Puxatawney, PA, about an hour northeast of Pittsburgh, since 1886. The Groundhog legend is based on an old Scottish rhyme: "If Candlemas Day is bright and clear, there'll be two winters in the year." February second used to be referred to as Candlemas, and German tradition holds that if the sun comes out on Candlemas, the hedgehog (or badger) will see its shadow and six more weeks of winter will follow. When German settlers came to Pennsylvania they continued this tradition, using groundhogs instead of hedgehogs to predict the weather.
The whole Gobbler's Knob thing got started the following year when a bunch of "Groundhog Hunters" calling themselves the "Punxsutawney Groundhog Club" started the whole proclamation thing, headed up by the town's newspaper editor, who reported it faithfully every year.
These days, Punxatawney Phil lives in a climate-controlled burrow at the Punxsutawney Library, and is pulled out each Groundhog Day at 7:25 am (Eastern) to make his prediction.
Groundhog facts, courtesy Nickelodeon magazine:
--A Groundhog is the same thing as a woodchuck. It’s the largest member of the squirrel family and is sometimes called (wait for it...) a "whistle pig." The name whistle-pig comes from the fact that, when alarmed, a groundhog will emit a high-pitched whistle as a warning to the rest of his or her colony. And while we're on the subject, the name "woodchuck" is taken from the Algonquian name for the critters, wuchak..
--Groundhogs actually are true hibernators, which means they enter their burrow in the late fall and sleep until spring.
--A Groundhog removes about 700 pounds of dirt from the ground to dig a burrow, which can have several entrances and go on for as long as 45 feet.
--Groundhogs live alone. In the late spring, females have a litter of up to six babies, which stay with their mother for several months.
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