We've all heard of Punxsutawny Phil, that infamous little groundhog who shows his head bright and early on a February morning in Punxsutawny, Pennsylvania each year to predict the early arrival of Spring. And, as many know, he has a good friend named Wiarton Willy, who is responsible for predicting the weather in Canada. Such an enormous job for two such small fellows. How did they get such a big responsibility?
Groundhog Day is celebrated on February 2nd, or Candlemas, which falls halfway between the Winter Solstice and the Spring Equinox. Candlemas is the day set aside to remember the day of the Christ Child's presentation at the Temple on the day of Mary's Purification after His birth. European superstition once held that if it was sunny on Candlemas, an additional six weeks of winter weather would occur. If it was cloudy, Spring would come early. The Germans used an animal (usually a badger or a hedgehog) as an instrument to determine whether or not it was sunny out on this day. When the German settlers came to Pennsylvania, they brought this practice with them and adopted the groundhog as their animal indicator. The first "official" trip to Gobbler's Knob in Punxsutawny on Groundhog Day to obtain Phil's prediction was made in 1887 by a group of groundhog hunters known as "The Punxsutawney Groundhog Club." Today, the largest Groundhog Day celebration is still conducted in Punxsutawny though celebrations are held in a number of other states and various Amish communities.