On February 2nd, people from all around the country will have their sights set on Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, to find out whether the groundhog Punxsutawney Phil sees his shadow or not. This event has been a tradition in the town since the 1800s.
Legend has it that if the groundhog sees his shadow on February 2, he retreats back to his burrow and the United States is doomed for six more weeks of winter. If he doesn’t see his shadow, the country should expect warmer temperatures and the arrival of an early spring.
This belief actually dates back to an ancient pagan holiday held midway between the winter solstice and spring equinox. Sunny skies on that day were seen as a prediction that the rest of the winter would be stormy, and cloudy skies meant warm weather was coming soon. Germans believed if a hedgehog saw its shadow on Candlemas, there would be six more weeks of bad weather.
The National Centers for Environmental Information gives a bit of history showing how Groundhog Day grew into a very American holiday. The Pennsylvania Tourism site also has some Groundhog Day history.
But how accurate is Punxsutawney Phil? USA Today tracked Phil’s results and found that since 1887 the groundhog has forecasted a longer winter 102 times and an early spring 7 times. Since 1988, he was “right” a total of 13 times and “wrong” times, based on national average temperatures for February.
Fans who want to watch Groundhog Day 2016 live online can click here for the state of Pennsylvania’s official tourism site, which has live streaming video of Punxsutawney Phil making his prediction. Coverage starts at 6 a.m. ET.