When your inground pool cover is on for the winter, swimming pool season may seem far away. However, as February approaches, so does an important holiday that may indicate an early sign to spring. On February 2nd, Punxsutawney Phil crawls out of his hole during the early morning hours. He looks around to see if his shadow is there. If he sees it, he retreats into his hole and six more hours of winter ensue. If he does not see it, spring will come early! Did you ever wonder how this day came to be? What is the meaning of Groundhog Day? 

The origin of this February holiday has its roots in the ancient Christian tradition of Candlemas Day. On this day, the Roman clergy would bless and distribute candles needed for winter. The candles symbolized how long winter would last—and how cold the weather would be. Then, the Germans expanded on this concept by selecting the hedgehog as the animal that would predict the weather. If the hedgehog casts a shadow, six more weeks of bad weather was predicted, which they called the Second Winter.

When the Germans came to America and settled in Pennsylvania, the tradition continued. The Germans determined that the groundhog most resembled the hedgehog, and since there was no shortage of groundhogs in Pennsylvania, they decided it would predict the weather. Groundhogs weigh between 12 and 15 pounds and live six to eight years. They eat fruits and vegetables, climb trees, and swim. In the late fall, they go into hibernation, their body temperature dropping significantly and their heartbeats slowing from 80 to 5 beats a minute. When February comes, male groundhogs emerge from their burrows to look for a mate—not to predict the weather—and then venture back underground. They come out of their hibernation in March.

In 1886, The Punxsutawney Spirit newspaper printed the news of the first observance of Groundhog Day. Then, in 1887, a legendary trek was made to Gobbler’s Knob in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. A newspaper editor that belonged to a group of groundhog hunters from Punxsutawney (called the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club) declared that Phil, the Punxsutawney groundhog, was the country’s first and only weather-predicting groundhog. Other towns across North America followed suit, and suddenly there were many groundhogs named Phil. A few towns chose their own names, such as Staten Island Chuck, Birmingham Bill and Shubenacadie Sam in Canada.

Early observances of Phil's antics were conducted privately in the woods that ran alongside the town. Today, tens of thousands of people gather at Gobbler’s Knob in Punxsutawney each February 2nd to bear witness to Punxsutawney Phil’s prediction. The Punxsutawney Groundhog Club hosts a three-day celebration featuring a variety of entertainment and activities surrounding the big day. They start the day with Breakfast with Phil! Bring a camera to snap some pictures of Punxsutawney Phil and the Inner Circle, members of the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club. Then, they await the big reveal—will Phil see his shadow or not?