Every February, thousands of people gather in a small Pennsylvania town to participate in a centuries-old spring ceremony.
One of the most eccentric traditions in the American social calendar, Groundhog Day is a term popularized by the 1993 film starring Bill Murray.
But unlike the classic comic, Groundhog Day isn’t about being stuck in a time loop and instead is a custom rooted in folklore and superstition.
So what is this unusual tradition and why do they celebrate it in Pennsylvania? Here’s everything you need.
What is Groundhog Day?
Crowds gather at Gobbler’s Knob, in Pennsylvania, every year to await the emergence of a moose named Punxsutawney Phil from his hole.
According to tradition, if Phil leaves his hole and sees his shadow, he will return to his hole and winter will continue for another six weeks.
However, if Phil can’t see his shadow because it’s too cloudy, the spring season will come soon.
However, there is not much truth to this superstition.
When is Groundhog Day?
According to the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club, Phil will retire from his hole today, February 2 – which is the same date every year.
Last year, Phil emerged around noon GMT.
Where does Groundhog Day come from?
Unlike its celluloid counterpart, Groundhog Day is rooted in tradition, having been brought over to America by the Pennsylvania Dutch in the 19th century.
Although its exact origins are unknown, some think its roots can be traced back to the German tradition of marking Candlemas as Dachstag – or “Badger Day”, where a badger was used to predict the weather.
Groundhog Day was first mentioned in 1840 and the event was first reported in the news in 1886, in the Punxsutawney Spirit newspaper.
But it wasn’t until 1887 when the day was finally considered an official event, after a group traveled to Gobbler’s Knob to consult the groundhog on the weather, where people have gathered ever since.
What is a groundhog?
Ground squirrels are a type of marmot-like ground squirrel. They are also known as wooden chucks.
They can grow up to 15cm tall and 50cm long and have thick claws that are particularly adapted for digging, spending a lot of time in their burrows.
Can I watch Groundhog Day?
You can. Visit the Pennsylvania tourism site at 11am to watch Phil make his predictions for 2023.