PHOTO BY ALAN FREED
On Feb. 2, from Gobbler's Knob in Punxsutawney, Penn., Punxsutawney Phil will make his 123rd prediction* as to whether winter is almost over or if there's still more to come. If Phil, the world's most famous groundhog — a member of the marmot family, Marmota monax, also known as woodchucks or whistle pigs, for the high-pitched sound they make (click the link and scroll to the bottom of the page) — sees his shadow, we're in for another six weeks of wintery weather.
While Groundhog Day festivities may sound like some small, quaint tradition, the holiday is actually quite a big to-do, especially after the making of Bill Murray's 1993 movie of the same name. According to John Hallman of the Punxsutawney Weather Discovery Center, a regular turnout for the ceremony before the movie's release was a solid five to 8,000 people. The year Murray attended, the number of participants soared to more than 30,000, and has remained robust ever since.
Not sure what all the fuss is about? Check out this fun video to learn more about the history and ritual of Groundhog Day — well worth the 6:08 minutes.
Want to have your own Groundhog Day celebration? Phil comes out to make his prediction at daybreak, about 7:25 a.m. But be warned, there are many imposter groundhogs trying to get into the spotlight. Make sure you're seeing the real McCoy and check out coverage of the ceremony at the official Punxsutawney Groundhog Club website — where you'll also find Groundhog Day activities, Groundhog Day Poetry and a recipe for Groundhog Cookies.
There's even a great old Appalachian song called "Groundhog." While the lyrics aren't sung in this rendition, the young gentleman below has by far the neatest version of it being played that I could find on YouTube (followed closely, for sheer entertainment value, by The Whistle Pigs "Groundhog" jam session, in which the washboard is literally on fire — though neither the audio nor visual quality of the video are great).
However you celebrate, Happy Groundhog Day!
*It's official: Punxsutawney Phil spied his shadow, predicting that winter won't be leaving any time soon.