Known for being one of America’s most unique traditional holidays, and famous for its quirky representation in the film of the same name starring Bill Murray, Groundhog Day is a fun family-friendly event, and a great chance to experience an eccentric side to American history.
What is Groundhog Day?
Celebrated each year on 2nd February, Groundhog Day is a tradition which dates back to the 18th and 19th centuries, with the first documented mention of Groundhog Day in 1841. With its origins rooted in European folklore, Groundhog Day is a fun and entertaining tradition to get involved in when visiting the USA. The Legend of the Groundhog stipulates that if it emerges from its burrow on a cloudy day, spring will arrive early.
The most famous Groundhog Day celebrations take place in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. Thousands of people turn up to witness the local groundhog, Punxsutawney Phil, emerge from his burrow at Gobbler’s Knob, and even the local governor has been known to turn up to the event in person. If Phil sees his shadow and retreats back inside his hole, folklore says that there will be six more weeks of winter. Groundhog Day has been taking place here since 1886, and 2017 will see Punxsutawney Phil’s 131st prognostication.
What’s so special about Punxsutawney Phil?
The legendary groundhog of Punxsutawney has been making weather predictions for over 100 years! Many people ask how he has lived for so long, because a groundhog’s average lifespan is usually between six and eight years. Locals say that the secret lies in a magical punch, which Phil drinks every summer, giving him seven more years of life. Whatever your beliefs, waiting for Phil to show his furry face to the world on 2nd February is a lively event to attend and a great chance to experience local culture.
Groundhog Day celebrations
As well as the gathering to see Punxsutawney Phil’s weather predictions for the following six weeks, there are several ‘Groundhog Lodges’ across Pennsylvania that celebrate German culture through singing, talks and skits. These are fantastic to experience in the early morning, before the main event. The main event takes place around 7:25AM, so it’s an early start for all involved, but well worth it!
- Punxsutawney Phil weighs about 20 pounds (a little over nine kilograms) and is 22 inches long.
- While other celebrations exist, most believe that Punxsutawney Phil is the only true weather-predicting groundhog.
- All Groundhog Day events, as well as communications with Punxsutawney Phil, are handled by the Groundhog Club.
- Early German settlers brought the event to the USA, from the tradition of Candlemas Day (the Christian festival of lights).
For the nearest pickup point to Gobbler’s Knob, find Alamo Rent A Car at State College, Pennsylvania.