Phil Calls For Early Spring

( – It was Groundhog Day once more in Gobbler’s Knob, located in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, on Friday, February 2. The groundhog Punxsutawney Phil has indicated that we may be getting an early spring this year The annual tradition, now in its 138th year, sees people and media from all over descend on the small community to watch the famous groundhog and most hope he does not see his shadow.

As portrayed in the famous 1993 film starring Bill Murray, “Groundhog Day” ceremonies and traditions in Gobbler’s Knob are as rich and fun as any in the nation. After the official proclamation is read, Punxsutawney Phil the groundhog is released and the shadow determination is made. The shadow theory works like this; if a groundhog emerges from its underground burrow looks around and sees its own shadow it will quickly retreat back to its den and we should expect six more weeks of winter.

Conversely, if the groundhog emerges from its lair and does not see its shadow and stays above ground, we should expect an early spring and fewer cold days ahead. The February 2 tradition is believed to date back to 1887 with regional celebrations taking place around the United States and Canada. The first proponents of the shadow theory were German-speaking Pennsylvania Dutch settlers who brought their traditions with them. The original German tradition was known as “Dachtag” or “Badger Day” in which the people would watch for the badger to emerge from its den. If Dachtag happened to be a sunny day, the badger would likely cast a shadow and if it saw its shadow and retreated back to its lair they believed this meant one more month of winter.

Most people enjoy the tradition and the Punxsutawney Phil name was recently even inducted into the Weather Discovery Center’s Meteorologist Hall of Fame. Local news from around the country as well as several social media accounts cover the groundhog and his shadow. However, not everyone seems to take the holiday as a fun diversion, the group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), sent a letter last month to Punxsutawney Groundhog Club President, Tom Dunkel calling for this tradition to end. They offered him a gold coin to flip instead of deploying the groundhog and also said they should rename the day out of “respect” to Punxsutawney Phil.

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