From the Official Punxsutawney Groundhog Website (Adapted from "Groundhog Day: 1886 to 1992" by Bill Anderson)
Groundhog Day, February 2nd, is a popular tradition in the United States. It is also a legend that traverses centuries, its origins clouded in the mists of time with ethnic cultures and animals awakening on specific dates. Myths such as this tie our present to the distant past when nature did, indeed, influence our lives. It is the day that the Groundhog comes out of his hole after a long winter sleep to look for his shadow.
If he sees it, he regards it as an omen of six more weeks of bad weather and returns to his hole.
If the day is cloudy and, hence, shadowless, he takes it as a sign of spring and stays above ground.
The groundhog tradition stems from similar beliefs associated with Candlemas Day and the days of early Christians in Europe, and for centuries the custom was to have the clergy bless candles and distribute them to the people. Even then, it marked a milestone in the winter and the weather that day was important.
According to an old English song:
If Candlemas be fair and bright,
Come, Winter, have another flight;
If Candlemas brings clouds and rain,
Go Winter, and come not again.
Early observances of Phil's predictions were conducted privately in the wooded areas that neighbor the town. Today's celebration sees tens of thousands of visitors from all over the world as revelers await Phil's appearance as most fans wait to see their favorite rock stars.
Over the course of Phil's appearances, Phil has had numerous noteworthy highlights:
During Prohibition Phil threatened to impose 60 weeks of winter on the community if he wasn't allowed a drink.
In 1981 Phil wore a yellow ribbon in honor of the American hostages in Iran.
Phil traveled to Washington DC in 1986 to meet with President Reagan. He was joined by Groundhog Club President Jim Means, Al Anthony and Bill Null.
In 1993, Columbia Pictures released the movie Groundhog Day starring Bill Murray.
Phil appeared on the Oprah Winfrey show in 1995.
In the years following the release of the movie, record crowds numbering as high as 30,000 have visited Gobbler's Knob in Punxsutawney!
In 2001, Phil's prediction was shown live on the JumboTron at Times Square in New York City.
And Phil's prediction this year? Six more weeks of winter, I hope that Mother Nature is kind during those weeks.