Anthony DiMattia Via Delaware News Journal
Not even the COVID-19 pandemic, nor snow, could keep Punxsutawney Phil from getting his job done on Groundhog Day on Tuesday.
The great weather-predicting groundhog could not be stopped, forecasting six more weeks of winter after seeing his shadow during the annual spectacle at Gobbler's Knob in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania.
While the event usually draws thousands to the borough in Jefferson County — some 65 miles northeast of Pittsburgh — this year's festivities were all virtual.
The exception: About a dozen members of Phil's "Inner Circle," a group of men in top hats who organize the event each year. Along with the Inner Circle, some cardboard cutouts of some previous attendees were placed around the tiny hill just outside Punxsutawney.
“Punxsutawney Phil’s prognostication is a tradition we are proud to share with the world each year,” said Groundhog Club Inner Circle President Jeff Lundy.
“Seeing America’s furriest weather predictor extraordinaire spread joy each February directly from Punxsutawney is an honor and a privilege.”
Over the 135 year-tradition, it is the 106th time Phil has seen his shadow, members said.
The prediction was fitting, coming a day after a major storm dropped more than a foot of snow in several parts of the Northeast.
Here's a look at the celebration that has gained a foothold in American lore:
The shadow tradition explained
The annual event has its origin in a German legend about a furry rodent. It roots back to Candlemas Day in Europe with the Christian "festival of lights" that falls on Feb. 2, midway between the start and end of winter.
Tradition says Phil seeing his shadow is a sign that the next six weeks will bring wintry weather.
If Phil doesn't see his shadow, it means an early spring.
Groundhog Day isn't scientific (in fact, Punxsutawney Phil's weather predictions are wrong most of the time).
If we're being honest, it even defies common sense.
The legend is simple: the groundhog's shadow on Feb. 2 predicts the weather for the next six weeks, until the start of spring.
A sunny day means the groundhog will see his shadow — this is taken as a sign that the next six weeks will bring wintry weather. A cloudy day means the opposite.
What keeps Punxsutawney Phil going?
In Punxsutawney, 1886 marked the first time that Groundhog Day appeared in the local newspaper. The following year brought the first official trek to Gobbler's Knob. Each year since then has seen a steady increase in participation of the celebration from people all over the world, according to www.groundhog.org.
It's been the same Punxsutawney Phil for all 135 years of the tradition, according to the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club. That's over 15 times longer than the upper end of a groundhog's typical lifespan. That's an old groundhog.
Those at the club say a special diet keeps Pennsylvania's most famous groundhog coming back each year, according to the Inner Circle.
The 15 member group tasked with protecting and perpetuating the legend of the great weather-predicting groundhog, claim they keep him immortal by feeding him the "groundhog punch" every year.
In the late summer, the club makes a Trek to Phil's Stump at Gobbler's Knob to feed him his “Elixir of Life,” members say. The elixir is made from a secret recipe and provides Phil with the potion that has sustained his longevity and youthful good looks, they said.
Phil's predictions of years past
Phil's first official shadow sighting came in 1887, followed by several years of no official recordings.
The first front page coverage came in 1908, when Phil saw his shadow. In 1913, John Frampton was the first to grab photo for the newspaper of Phil spotting his shadow.
His longest stretch of seeing his shadow is 21 years, which came between 1913 and 1933. His longest streak of not seeing his shadow — two years between 2019 and 2020.
The only time he did not make an appearance came in 1943 during the middle of World War II.