Little Bits of History

Punxsutawney Phil

Posted in History by patriciahysell on February 2, 2010

Punxsutawney Phil

February 2, 1887: The first Groundhog Day is celebrated in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. It is a traditional festival in both the US and Canada and is celebrated yearly on this date. According to weather lore, if a groundhog, a.k.a. woodchuck, looks out of his burrow and fails to see his shadow, winter will soon end. If, however, he sees his shadow, it will frighten him back into his hole, foreshadowing another six weeks of winter. Punxsutawney Phil’s burrow is located on Gobbler’s Knob.

Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania has created a place for both children and adults to learn about weather. The Punxsutawney Weather Discovery Center has exhibits about all sorts of weather conditions. They are open from 10 am to 4 pm daily, but closed on Wednesday and Sunday. They have recently opened a new exhibit called the Weather Wizard. One side of the interactive exhibit is geared toward children while the other side is geared to those a bit older. It is the 21st exhibit installed at the Center since 2007.The first exhibits were a weather balloon in the lobby and Phil’s Burrow – giving a detailed history of Groundhog’s Day.

European Celts of the fifth century believed that some animals had supernatural powers. The timing of the day for this festival was six weeks before the onset of spring. Therefore, if the animal saw his shadow, there would be six more weeks of winter and if he didn’t spring would come in 42 days. There is some reason to believe Roman legions helped to spread the custom from the Celtic Islands to the Teutons of present day Germany. The name for this day in Europe was Candlemas Day.

A movie starring Bill Murray entitled Groundhog Day was released in 1993. The hero, Phil Connors, news show producer Rita (played by Andie MacDowell), and cameraman Larry (played by Chris Elliott) are trapped in Punxsutawney. A blizzard prevents their return to Pittsburgh. Phil must keep reliving Groundhog Day until he learns the lesson of the day and becomes a better and more selfless person.

“The groundhog is like most other prophets; it delivers its prediction and then disappears.” – Bill Vaughan

“The trouble with weather forecasting is that it’s right too often for us to ignore it and wrong too often for us to rely on it.” – Patrick Young

“This is pitiful. A thousand people freezing their butts off, waiting to worship a rat.” – Danny Rubin and Harold Ramis, from the movie Groundhog Day

“Winter is on my head, but eternal spring is in my heart.” – Victor Hugo

Also on this day, in 1925 serum reached Nome, Alaska and inspired what would become the Iditarod.

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  1. Castaway « Little Bits of History said, on February 2, 2011 at 5:48 am

    […] on this day: Punxsutawney Phil – In 1887, Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania celebrates their first Groundhog’s Day. Diphtheria serum […]


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