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Punxsutawney Phil foretells end of winter

February 1, 2012
Estherville Daily News

According to, the official website of prognosticators' attempts to foretell the end of winter, today, Feb. 2 will be Punxsutawney Phil's 126th prognostication.

According to the website, following are answers to frequently asked questions about the holiday:

n Yes! Punxsutawney Phil is the only true weather forecasting groundhog. The others are just impostors.

n How often is Phil's prediction correct? One hundred percent of the time, of course!

n How many "Phils" have there been over the years? There has only been one Punxsutawney Phil. He has been making predictions for over 125 years!

n Punxsutawney Phil gets his longevity from drinking the "elixir of life," a secret recipe. Phil takes one sip every summer at the Groundhog Picnic and it magically gives him seven more years of life.

n On Feb. 2, Phil comes out of his burrow on Gobbler's Knob - in front of thousands of followers from all over the world - to predict the weather for the rest of winter.

According to legend, if Punxsutawney Phil sees his shadow, there will be six more weeks of winter weather. If he does not see his shadow, there will be an early spring.

No! Phil's forecasts are not made in advance by the Inner Circle. After Phil emerges from his burrow on Feb. 2, he speaks to the Groundhog Club president in "Groundhogese" (a language only understood by the current president of the Inner Circle). His proclamation is then translated for the world.

The celebration of Groundhog Day began with Pennsylvania's earliest settlers. They brought with them the legend of Candlemas Day, which states, "For as the sun shines on Candlemas Day, so far will the snow swirl in May . . . "

Punxsutawney held its first Groundhog Day in the 1800s. The first official trek to Gobbler's Knob was made on Feb. 2, 1887.

So the story goes, Punxsutawney Phil was named after King Phillip. Prior to being called Phil, he was called Br'er Groundhog.

Whatever the origins of Punxsutawney Phil or Groundhog Day, it's nice to have just a little bit of entertainment to offset the midwinter doldrums. Like Valentine's Day, Groundhog Day is a good respite from winter.

Now let's put this whole groundhog business into perspective.

Granted, this has been an unusually mild winter. During a lot of winters, though, if spring came on March 15, we would consider that an early spring, wouldn't we?

That's where we Midwesterners get all sort of confused on this groundhog and shadow thing. If he sees his shadow does that mean a long winter or a short one. We keep getting it mixed up because our winters, usually at least, seem to go well past March 15.

So, Phil, hopefully you gave us a break this winter. Whether you saw your shadow or not today, would you please bring spring on - for good?



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