Groundhog Day: Punxsutawney Phil sees his shadow, 6 more weeks of winter

The tradition of Groundhog Day dates back to 1886, when the now legendary groundhog supposedly first began predicting the weather.

 Punxsutawney Phil's handler A.J. Dereume holds the famous groundhog during the 136th Groundhog Day, at Gobblers Knob in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, US, February 2, 2022.  (photo credit: ALAN FREED/REUTERS)
Punxsutawney Phil's handler A.J. Dereume holds the famous groundhog during the 136th Groundhog Day, at Gobblers Knob in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, US, February 2, 2022.
(photo credit: ALAN FREED/REUTERS)

Look forward to six more weeks of winter, according to the famous Punxsutawney Phil, who revealed his prediction to dedicated followers on Tuesday, the 136th annual Groundhog Day celebration in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania.

The event was livestreamed early Tuesday morning.

The tradition of Groundhog Day dates back to 1886, when the now legendary groundhog supposedly first began predicting the weather. It immediately became an annual tradition and a popular holiday in North America.

According to the deep lore behind Punxsutawney Phil, he is the same groundhog that comes out of his temporary home in Gobbler's Knob every year on February 2. If the "seer of seers, prognosticator of prognosticators" – as he is referred to by his devoted Inner Circle – would see his shadow and return to his burrow, it signified six extra weeks of winter.

Though the tradition is kept in good fun and not usually taken seriously, the Inner Circle maintains total secrecy year round regarding the ceremony and details, insisting that Phil is the same groundhog year after year.

Nowadays, the ceremony sees his handlers in the Inner Circle, all dressed in formal attire circa late 1800s including top hats, lifting him up and "conversing" with the prophetic rodent in "groundhogese" to determine if he has indeed seen his shadow. Then, after listening, they transcribe his response on a scroll, which they then dramatically read aloud to his "phaithphil phollowers" in attendance and watching around the world.

 Groundhog Club Inner Circle Vice President Tom Dunkel holds the scroll with Phil's forecast of six more weeks of winter during the 136th Groundhog Day, at Gobblers Knob in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, US, February 2, 2022. (credit: ALAN FREED/REUTERS) Groundhog Club Inner Circle Vice President Tom Dunkel holds the scroll with Phil's forecast of six more weeks of winter during the 136th Groundhog Day, at Gobblers Knob in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, US, February 2, 2022. (credit: ALAN FREED/REUTERS)

In keeping with the secrecy, the Inner Circle claims the predictions are 100% accurate – and whenever they are wrong, it is said that the translator made a mistake.

The tradition is believed to derive from pagan folk traditions in Europe, which focus on similar animals such as badgers.

Punxsutawney Phil became an international icon following the popular 1993 film Groundhog Day starring Bill Murray, which brought greater prominence to the holiday that has since become synonymous with a continuously repeating cycle of events.

In 2021, Phil also saw his shadow, predicting six more weeks of winter. But, was he correct?

Half right, according to the National Centers for Environmental Information in the US.

"The contiguous United States saw below average temperatures in February and above average temperatures in March of last year. Phil was 50/50 on his forecast," the NCEI said, according to CNN.

It remains to be seen how his prediction will play out this year.

But while Phil managed to make his prediction, his New Jersey counterpart Milltown Mel was not as fortunate, having died just one day earlier. 

"We Wranglers are sad to report that Milltown Mel recently crossed over the rainbow bridge," read a Facebook post on the groundhog's page. "Considering the average lifespan of a Groundhog is about 3 years, that is not such a shock, but Mel left us at a tough time of year, when most of his fellow groundhogs are hibernating."

Jerusalem Post Staff contributed to this report.