10 Groundhog Day Facts You've Gone Too Long Without Knowing

10 Groundhog Day Facts You've Gone Too Long Without Knowing

Fun info about that furry meteorologist and his holiday to share with your family.

By: Heather Chaet

Groundhog Day always reminds me of my grandfather. I know, it’s a little odd, but he loved this holiday. We’re not quite sure why, but he was rather obsessed with it. Every year, as long as I can remember, around Feb. 2, I’d receive an envelope in the mail with a poem he had written about the furry little weather predictor. From the time I was a little girl, all through my school years, when I was at college, even after I had moved to New York City, without fail, I would get a little ode to Groundhog Day, courtesy of my grandfather.

My grandfather’s no longer here, but I try to keep his Groundhog Day enthusiasm going in my own home. Here are 10 fun facts about the animal that enters the spotlight every year on the second day of February and the history of his quirky holiday.

1. This will mark the 129th year Punxsutawney Phil has attempted to predict the weather. The first official Groundhog Day was held in (where else?) Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania.

2. The idea for Groundhog Day was imported from overseas. In Europe, if it was sunny and a hedgehog saw its shadow on Feb. 2, it would mean six additional weeks of winter. When German immigrants settled in Pennsylvania, they brought along this tradition, but they had one problem: They couldn’t find a hedgehog. As a result, they decided the groundhog should take on the annual forecasting job.

3. Punxsutawney Phil has a very long name. His full name is actually Punxsutawney Phil, Seer of Seers, Sage of Sages, Prognosticator of Prognosticators, and Weather Prophet Extraordinary.

4. There’s more than one weather-predicting groundhog. Phil has a few rivals when it comes to the prognosticating game. Among them you have Sir Walter Wally from Raleigh, North Carolina, Smith Lake Jake from Birmingham, Alabama, Staten Island Chuck, from the Staten Island Zoo in New York, and Buckeye Chuck from Marion, Ohio. There are a few more groundhog celebrities in Canada and around the U.S., but Punxsutawney Phil reigns as the top headliner.

5. What’s the difference between a groundhog and a woodchuck? Nothing. They’re the same creature, the largest one in the squirrel family. Woodchuck Day just doesn’t have the same ring to it.

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6. Groundhogs don’t really drink water. Groundhogs have a pretty specific diet of berries, plants, and insects, and they don’t really need to drink. Though very able swimmers, they mostly quench their thirst with the dewy leaves they like to munch on.


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7. Does a groundhog squeak, oink, or whistle? While in defense mode or during mating season, groundhogs whistle to communicate with other groundhogs.

8. How old is Punxsutawney Phil really? Some say the groundhog we will see this Feb. 2, 2015, is the same groundhog from the 1800s. The average groundhog lives about six or eight years, and those residing in captivity or a zoo can live up to 10 years. However, The Groundhog Club's Inner Circle, the group that organizes the festivities for Feb. 2 and takes care of Punxsutawney Phil, says that Phil is “special.” According to his keepers, Phil drinks a magical “groundhog punch” every summer that gives him an additional seven years of life.

9. Not every state celebrates Groundhog Day. Alaska officially replaced Groundhog Day with Marmot Day. In 2009, the governor at the time, Sarah Palin, signed the bill to create a holiday that celebrates frontier life.

10. How does Phil do it – or does he do anything? Last year, Phil saw his shadow, indicating there would be six more weeks of winter. With the extreme temperatures from the polar vortex that year, it felt like he was spot on with that forecast. Yet, some experts disagree on Phil’s abilities. According to the National Climatic Data Center, Phil doesn’t have a great track record for predicting the weather or any sort of forecasting skills at all. The agency studied U.S. temperatures from 1988-2013 and compared them with what Phil predicted for that year. The results? There seems to be “no predictive skill for the groundhog.” Sorry, Phil!

How do you celebrate Groundhog Day?

Heather Chaet documents her mini parenting successes, epic mommy fails, and everything in between for a plethora (love that word!) of publications and websites such as CafeMom, New York Family, and AdWeek. While her online persona is found at heatherchaet.com, Heather lives in New York City with her film director husband and one insanely curious, cat-obsessed daughter.

Image ©iStock.com/summersetretrievers

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