Every year, in the middle of could winter, a popular tradition wakes people up in the United States. Groundhog Day, on February 2nd is the most celebrated tradition. It began in the 1700s, when German settlers introduced the tradition of Candlemas Day. A lighted candle was placed in the window of each home and the people watched anxiously for the weather. If the sun came out on that day, then it meant six more weeks of winter weather. The tradition evolves from an older celebration known as Imbolc celebrated on February 2nd, the mid-point between the Winter Solstice and the Spring Equinox. The song says:
For as the sun shines on Candlemas Day,
So far will the snow swirl until the May.
Nowhere is this tradition so famous as it is in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, home of the world-famous weather forecasting groundhog, Punxsutawney Phil. Hundreds of people gather to witness to see if Phil will see his own shadow and retreat into the burrows for a prolonged winter, or if he will come out of it and play. The name Punxsutawney comes from the Indian name for the location "ponksad-uteney" meaning "the town of the sand flies." The Native Americans consider the Groundhog or the woodchuck to be their grandfather. The Groundhog, (Marmota monax), is a member of the squirrel family. Groundhogs in the wild eat succulent green plants, such as dandelion, clover, and grasses.
Pennsylvania's first official celebration of Groundhog Day began on February 2nd, 1886. There are many differences in the observance of Groundhog Day between then and now. For instance, Phil's predictions were conducted privately in the wooded areas near the town. Today's celebration is witnessed by thousands of visitors from all over the world and also has his own website Punxsutawney.com.
For all the fuss, the Groundhog's seasonal forecasting accuracy is low. Phil's winter predictions have been correct only 39% of the time.