Every February 2nd, the townspeople of Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, gather in eager anticipation at Gobbler’s Knob. Their mission: to watch a groundhog determine the weather for the remainder of winter, an event known as Groundhog Day. So, will Punxsutawney Phil see his shadow on Groundhog Day 2024 and predict six more weeks of the cold season? Or will a cloudy day herald an early spring?
Read on to learn everything you need to know about Groundhog Day 2024, including when it was and the accuracy of past results.
What is Groundhog Day?
Groundhog Day centers around a groundhog named Punxsutawney Phil, who lives in his namesake town in Pennsylvania that’s home to the earliest known celebration of the holiday. On February 2nd, the townspeople pull Phil out of the ground and watch as he predicts the weather’s behavior for the remaining winter.
History of Groundhog Day
The first Groundhog Day was celebrated in 1886, according to the Punxsutawney local newspaper. In 1887, the townspeople introduced the tradition by walking to Gobbler’s Knob to see the Phil in action.
However, the traditions that inspired Groundhog Day stretch as far back hundreds of years into history. The Christian-European holiday Candlemas Day was celebrated on February 2nd when Christians would bring candles to the church and ask them to be blessed. They felt this would, in turn, bring blessings to their homes for the rest of the cold season.
This tradition eventually made its way to Germany, where the first mention of an animal was introduced to the story. According to German mythology, if a hedgehog saw his shadow on Candlemas Day, a “second winter” or six more weeks of cold temperatures would occur. As German settlers eventually traveled to the United States, they brought their stories to the New World. These settlers couldn’t find hedgehogs, so they chose groundhogs – another hibernating animal – to carry on the tradition.
Details on Punxsutawney Phil
Punxsutawney Phil is a 20-pound groundhog that makes the annual prediction at every Groundhog Day celebration. He has a group of humans called the “Inner Circle” who vouches for his predictions and takes care of him.
On February 2nd, the Inner Circle’s president speaks Groundhoghese and conveys Phil’s predictions to the assembled crowd. This group also claims that Phil is more than a century old – thanks to a life-extending “elixir of life” he drinks every summer – and that his predictions are completely accurate. Of course, groundhogs live on average two to three years, though some can live up to six years in the wild.
When is Groundhog Day 2024?
Groundhog Day 2024 will take place on Friday, February 2nd. The annual ceremony takes place over the first few days of February, with a festival complete with talent competition, receptions, catered dinners, and – of course – the early-morning Groundhog Day ceremony where Phil makes his prediction.
Shadow vs. No Shadow: What Does it Mean?
The rules around the groundhog seeing or not seeing his shadow can be somewhat confusing. When Punxsutawney Phil sees his shadow, this means that the sun is shining, and that is supposed to indicate that there are six more weeks of winter ahead. If no shadow appears, early spring is imminent.
However, there have been some exceptions to these rules. On cloudy days, Phil has (via his Inner Circle) claimed to see his shadow, and he’s not seen his shadow on sunny days.
How Accurate is Groundhog Day?
The members of Punxsutawney Phil’s Inner Circle declare 100% accuracy. Despite that, the Groundhog Day predictions are closer to 40% accurate. Per sources that track the marmot’s work, Phil has predicted an early end to winter 18 times in total. In one prediction of early spring in 2011, however, the eastern half of the United States was pummeled with snowfall in the middle of March.
Next year’s 2024 Groundhog Day will be his 137th chance to guess correctly, so we’ve yet to see if his predictions will hit closer to the mark.
What were the Groundhog Day 2023 results?
Leading up to the event, a National Today survey polled 1,000 people about 2023’s results, and the responses were:
- 67% think Phil will see his shadow
- 33% think Phil will not see his shadow
Well, the 67% were correct! On the morning of February 2, Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow and declared six more weeks of winter.
Where Is Punxsutawney, Other Animals That Live in the Area
Punxsutawney is a neighborhood in southern Jefferson County, located in central-west Pennsylvania. Central Pennsylvania is home to various wildlife, including moles, opossums, foxes, and deer. Other rodents such as squirrels, chipmunks, and voles make their home in the different forested areas, and northern pike, walleyes, and various freshwater fish are available in the several nearby fishing sites.
5 Fun Facts About Groundhogs
- Groundhogs are a type of marmot, which are larger rodents related to squirrels. They are also called woodchucks.
- Groundhogs have been known to live up to six years on average. However, the longest-living woodchuck, Canada’s Wiarton Willie, lived to 22 years of age.
- Groundhogs’ natural habitat extends throughout North America, stretching as south as Alabama and as north as Alaska.
- Groundhogs hibernate in the winter, resting between October and March or April, depending on how the seasons change.
- When danger is near, groundhogs will release high-pitched screams that sound like whistles, earning them the nickname “whistle pigs” in some areas.
The photo featured at the top of this post is © Alan Freed/Shutterstock.com
Thank you for reading! Have some feedback for us? Contact the AZ Animals editorial team.