Punxsutawney Phil, the Pennsylvania groundhog that folklore has it can predict an early spring, emerged from his burrow early Friday and predicted that six more weeks of winter-like weather is in store for the United States.
“Punxsutawney Phil, the Seer of Seers, Prognosticator of all Prognosticators, was awakened at sunrise from his burrow by the cheers of his thousands of faithful followers,” one of his handlers said before a crowd at the annual event in Punxsutawney, a town about 80 miles (128 kilometers) northeast of Pittsburgh in the Pennsylvania Wilds.
The announcer continued: “In Groundhogese, he directed, the President of the Inner Circle to his prognostication scroll, which reads: ‘Up early this morning, far from home, are you searching for the Phil-osopher’s stone? Well, even my best friends, they don’t know. Is it an early spring, or just more snow? My faithful followers, your hands, and my paws, are getting cold. So here is my forecast, not lead, but solid gold: I see my royal shadow! Six more weeks of winter to go!'”
The crowd, which gathered in Punxsutawney with temperatures near 17 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 8.2 degrees Celsius), booed as the announcement was made.
The annual event that started in 1886 with a small group of men known as the Inner Circle now attracts up to 30,000 people every year. According to holiday folklore, if the groundhog emerges in the early morning on February 2 and does not see his shadow, there will be an early spring. If he sees his shadow, six more weeks of wintry weather is expected.
Since the first event, Punxsutawney Phil has predicted six more weeks of winter weather 103 times while forecasting an early spring just 18 times, although records are missing for 10 years. The last time the groundhog predicted an early spring was in 2016.
Groundhog Day has been well-known internationally since a 1993 comedy that starred actor Bill Murray as local weatherman Phil Connors. In the movie, Connors finds himself stuck in a personal time loop that repeats February 2 over and over while he is on a hated assignment to cover Groundhog Day.
“It’s the same shtick every year. The guy raps on the door, they pull the little rat out, they talk to him, he talks back. Then they tell us what’s going to happen,” Connors says in the movie, adding later: “This is pitiful. 1,000 people freezing their butts off waiting to worship a rat. What a hype.”
In December 2006, the Library of U.S. Congress added the 1993 movie “Groundhog Day” to its film preservation list that was established to ensure “culturally, historically or aesthetically” significant movies are preserved forever. There are currently 725 movies on the list.
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