Punxsutawney Phil

Phil being held by a member of the Inner Circle on February 2, 2018

Punxsutawney Phil is a groundhog in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, who is the central figure in the borough's annual Groundhog Day celebration. On February 2 each year,[1] Punxsutawney holds a civic festival with music and food. During the ceremony, which begins well before the winter sunrise, Phil emerges from his temporary home on Gobbler's Knob, located in a rural area about 2 miles (3 km) southeast of town. According to the tradition, if Phil sees his shadow and returns to his hole, he has predicted six more weeks of winter-like weather.[2] If Phil does not see his shadow, he has predicted an "early spring."[3] Punxsutawney's event is the most famous of many Groundhog Day festivals held in the United States and Canada. The event formally began in 1887, although its roots go back even further.[4]

The event is based upon a communal light-hearted suspension of disbelief. It is organized by the "Inner Circle" – recognizable from their top hats and tuxedos – who ostensibly communicate with Phil to receive his prognostication. This suspension of disbelief extends to the assertion that the same groundhog has been making predictions since the 19th century.

The Vice President of the Inner Circle prepares two scrolls in advance of the actual ceremony, one proclaiming six more weeks of winter and one proclaiming an early spring. At daybreak on February 2, Punxsutawney Phil awakens from his burrow on Gobbler's Knob, is helped to the top of the stump by his handlers, and purportedly explains to the President of the Inner Circle, in a language known as "Groundhogese",[4] whether he has seen his shadow. The President of the Inner Circle, the only person able to understand Groundhogese through his possession of an ancient acacia wood cane, then interprets Phil's message, and directs the Vice President to read the proper scroll to the crowd gathered on Gobbler's Knob and the masses of "phaithphil phollowers" tuned in to live broadcasts around the world.

The Inner Circle scripts the Groundhog Day ceremonies in advance, with the Inner Circle deciding beforehand whether Phil will see his shadow.[5] The Stormfax Almanac has made note of the weather conditions on each Groundhog Day since 1999; the almanac has recorded 12 incidents in a 20-year span in which the Inner Circle said the groundhog saw his shadow while the sky was cloudy or there was rain or snow coming down, and in one case said the groundhog did not see his shadow despite sunshine.[6]

Punxsutawney Phil's prediction for 2022 was "six more weeks of winter."[7]

Punxsutawney Phil canon

The practices and lore of Punxsutawney Phil's predictions are predicated on a light-hearted suspension of disbelief by those involved. According to the lore, there is only one Phil, and all other groundhogs are impostors.[8] It is claimed that this one groundhog has lived to make weather prognostications since 1886, sustained by drinks of "groundhog punch" or "elixir of life" administered at the annual Groundhog Picnic in the fall.[8] The lifespan of a groundhog in the wild is roughly six years.[9]

According to the Groundhog Club, Phil, after the prediction, speaks to the club president in the language of 'Groundhogese', which supposedly only the current president can understand, and then his prediction is translated and revealed to all.[8]

The Groundhog Day celebration is rooted in a Celtic and Germanic tradition that says that if a hibernating animal casts a shadow on February 2, the pagan holiday of Imbolc (known among Christians as Candlemas), winter and cold weather will last another six weeks. If no shadow is seen, legend says, spring will come early. In Germany, the tradition evolved into a myth that if the sun came out on Candlemas, a hedgehog would cast its shadow, predicting snow all the way into May.[10] When German immigrants settled in Pennsylvania, they transferred the tradition onto local fauna, replacing hedgehogs with groundhogs. Several other towns in the region hold similar Groundhog Day events.

Each year two scrolls are prepared by the vice president of the Inner Circle: One says early spring and the other says six more weeks of winter. These scrolls are placed during the ceremony on the stump and after Phil is awakened by the crowd, Phil communicates in Groundhogese to the President, who is then directed by Phil to the proper scroll and forecast.

Phil first received his name in 1961. The origins of the name are unclear, but speculation suggests that it may have been indirectly named after Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh.[11]


Prior to 1993, the Groundhog Day event in Punxsutawney attracted crowds of approximately 2,000. The popularity of the film Groundhog Day brought significantly more attention to the event, with annual crowds rising to 10,000–20,000 (with the notable exception of 2021 where the event took place without any crowds due to the COVID-19 pandemic).[12][13] The event is also streamed online each year.[14]

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals have objected to the event, claiming that Phil is put under stress. They have suggested replacing Phil with a robotic groundhog.[15]

In some cases where Phil's prognostications have been incorrect, organizations have jokingly made legal threats against the groundhog. Such tongue-in-cheek actions have been made by a prosecutor in Ohio,[16][17][18] the sheriff's office of Monroe County, Pennsylvania,[19] and the Merrimack, New Hampshire Police Department.[20]

In media and popular culture

Miniature replica at MRRV, Carnegie Science Center, Pittsburgh
  • Phil and the town of Punxsutawney were portrayed in the 1993 film Groundhog Day. However, the actual town used to portray Punxsutawney in the film is Woodstock, Illinois.[21]
  • In Groundhog Day, the 2016 Broadway musical adaptation of the film, Phil is ascribed a more mythical role.
  • In 1995, Phil flew to Chicago for a guest appearance on The Oprah Winfrey Show, which aired on Groundhog Day, February 2, 1995.[22]
  • A 2002 episode of the children's animated series Stanley, titled "Searching for Spring", featured Punxsutawney Phil.
  • Phil was the main attraction in "Groundhog Day", the April 10, 2005 episode of the MTV series Viva La Bam. In the episode, street skater Bam Margera holds a downhill race in honor of Punxsutawney Phil at Bear Creek Mountain Resort, Pennsylvania.
  • The Pennsylvania Lottery's mascot is a groundhog named Gus, referred to in commercials as "the second most famous groundhog in Pennsylvania", in deference to Phil.[23]

Past predictions

Punxsutawney Phil's predictions[24]
1887 1888 1889
1890 1891 1892 1893 1894 1895 1896 1897 1898 1899
1900 1901 1902 1903 1904 1905 1906 1907 1908 1909
1910 1911 1912 1913 1914 1915 1916 1917 1918 1919
1920 1921 1922 1923 1924 1925 1926 1927 1928 1929
1930 1931 1932 1933 1934 1935 1936 1937 1938 1939
1940 1941 1942 1943 1944 1945 1946 1947 1948 1949
1950 1951 1952 1953 1954 1955 1956 1957 1958 1959
1960 1961 1962 1963 1964 1965 1966 1967 1968 1969
1970 1971 1972 1973 1974 1975 1976 1977 1978 1979
1980 1981 1982 1983 1984 1985 1986 1987 1988 1989
1990 1991 1992 1993 1994 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999
2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009
2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019
2020 2021 2022
  "Long winter" (105)
  "Early spring" (20)
  "War clouds have blacked out parts of the shadow." (1)
  No appearance (1)
  No record (9)

Predictive accuracy

The Inner Circle, in keeping with the suspension of disbelief, claims a 100% accuracy rate, and an approximately 80% accuracy rate in recorded predictions (claiming in turn that whenever the prediction is wrong, the person in charge of translating the message must have made a mistake in their interpretation). Impartial estimates place the groundhog's accuracy between 35% and 41%.[25][26]

See also


  1. ^ "Groundhog Day 2020 Guide: Punxsutawney Phil facts, tips for going to Gobbler's Knob and more". pennlive. 2020-01-28. Retrieved 2020-02-12.
  2. ^ "Groundhog Day 2020 Guide: Punxsutawney Phil facts, tips for going to Gobbler's Knob and more". pennlive. 2020-01-28. Retrieved 2020-02-12.
  3. ^ "Groundhog.org FAQ". Groundhog.org. Retrieved 2009-02-02.
  4. ^ a b "Groundhog Day: History and Facts". History.com. Retrieved 2020-02-12.
  5. ^ "Punxsutawney Phil, Poor Richard make Groundhog Day predictions". The Evening Sun. Hanover, PA. February 2, 2015. Archived from the original on February 2, 2015. Retrieved February 2, 2015. Despite the German legend, Phil's handlers don't wait to see if he sees his shadow – as he likely would not have on such an overcast day. Instead, the Inner Circle decide on the forecast ahead of time (...)
  6. ^ Stormfax. "Groundhog Day History from Stormfax®". www.stormfax.com. Retrieved 2016-02-18.
  7. ^ Rice, Doyle. "Groundhog Day 2022: Punxsutawney Phil sees his shadow, meaning we're in for 6 more weeks of winter". usatoday.com. Gannett. Retrieved 2 February 2022.
  8. ^ a b c "Fun Facts". The Punxsutawney Groundhog Club. Retrieved 3 February 2016.
  9. ^ Marmota monax (Linnaeus); Woodchuck Archived 2013-07-28 at the Wayback Machine. Pick4.pick.uga.edu. Retrieved on 2014-06-10.
  10. ^ "Groundhog Day, Hedgehogs and Candlemas". www.bellaonline.com. Retrieved 3 February 2017.
  11. ^ Lucas Reilly and Austin Thompson (February 1, 2019). Why is Punxsutawney's Groundhog Called Phil? Mental Floss. Retrieved February 2, 2019.
  12. ^ "Punxsutawney Phil sees his shadow and predicts six more weeks of winter". CNN.
  13. ^ Carlson, Peter (3 February 2004). "His Moment in the Sun". Washington Post. Retrieved 23 June 2020.
  14. ^ "What Time Does the Groundhog Come Out on Groundhog Day?". Travel + Leisure. Retrieved 2020-06-23.
  15. ^ No more Punxsutawney Phil? It’s 'long overdue' for an AI groundhog instead, PETA says.
  16. ^ "Prosecutor indicts groundhog for misrepresentation of early spring". WHIO-TV. March 21, 2013. Retrieved March 21, 2013.
  17. ^ "Prediction groundhog faces 'death'". 3 News NZ. March 25, 2013.
  18. ^ Mandak, Joe (March 25, 2013). "Pa. groundhog's handler taking blame for forecast". The Seattle Times. Associated Press. Retrieved 26 December 2013.
  19. ^ Samenow, Jason (28 March 2018). "There is a Warrant Out for the Punxsutawney Phil's Arrest. Give the Groundhog a Break". Washington Post. Retrieved 12 February 2020.
  20. ^ Police want to take Punxsutawney Phil into custody, USA Today, February 11, 2015. Retrieved February 26, 2015.
  21. ^ Wardle, Lisa (2017-01-06). "2 Punxsutawneys: Compare 'Groundhog Day' film locations to the real town". pennlive. Retrieved 2020-03-30.
  22. ^ Pulling, Anne Frances (2001). Around Punxsutawney (Images of America). Arcadia Publishing. p. 128. ISBN 978-0-7385-0530-5.
  23. ^ "Gus the Groundhog is Back by Popular Demand". Pennsylvania Lottery. November 25, 2015.
  24. ^ "Groundhog Day". Stormfax Weather Almanac. Retrieved February 14, 2016.
  25. ^ "Groundhog Forecasters versus the U.S. Temperature Record". NOAA National Climatic Data Center. Retrieved January 31, 2013.
  26. ^ Groundhog Day forecasts and climate history. National Centers for Environmental Prediction (February 2, 2019). Retrieved February 2, 2019.

Further reading

External links

Coordinates: 40°56′10″N 78°57′14″W / 40.93611°N 78.95389°W / 40.93611; -78.95389


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