January 12, 2015

23 Entertaining Groundhog Day Statistics and Facts

Read more about What to Buy in February

If you're ready to say goodbye to winter weather and hello to spring, you're probably waiting for Groundhog Day with baited breath. Every February 2nd, people all across the country wait to hear whether they're in store for more cold and snow or lots of sunshine and warm breezes.

Since it's not a federal holiday, you’ll have to go to work that day, but you can still join in the fun. You don't have to go as far as throwing a Groundhog Day party or perfecting your accent in Groundhog-ese, but you can show your appreciation by sharing these quirky facts and statistics about this long-standing annual tradition.

© OiMax (CC BY 2.0) via Flickr

1. One groundhog is relied on more than the rest

Groundhogs, also known as woodchucks and whistle-pigs, can be found in most of the eastern U.S., but there's one whose predictions are valued more highly than others. Punxsutawney Phil, who makes his home in western Pennsylvania, is billed as the only true weather-forecasting groundhog.

2. Phil's predictions are always on the money

Pinpointing what the weather's going to be like is difficult enough for a trained meteorologist, so you would think it'd be even tougher for a furry rodent. But that’s not the case. If you believe the local lore, Phil's predictions are correct 100% of the time.

3. Although weather experts might disagree

Predicting the weather is usually a little more involved than just sticking your head out of a hole in the ground. While Phil's prognosticating is sometimes on target, the truth is he's only got about a 40% accuracy rate.

4. Bill Murray relived Ground Day for possibly 10 years

This is open to your own interpretation: Groundhog Day director Harold Ramis has claimed Murray’s character (also named Phil) was stuck in his loop of the same day over and over again for a decade, but another time he said it could have gone on for thousands of years. It’s interesting to note that the 1993 film, which had low expectations by critics, has become a cult classic. It grossed a decent $70 million in its first run in theaters and has been recognized as one of the 10 best fantasy films of all time by the American Film Institute.

5. Punxsutawney Phil is one really old groundhog

Although the typical lifespan of your average groundhog is between six and eight years, Punxsutawney Phil continues to defy the laws of aging. Legend has it that he's been making regular Groundhog Day appearances since 1887, which puts him somewhere in the neighborhood of 129 years old.

6. His secret lies with a special elixir

In order to maintain his youthful glow, Punxsutawney Phil indulges in a special "groundhog punch" once a year, or at least that’s what the people who care for him insist is the reason for longevity. Just a sip is said to extend his life by another 7 years.

7. His predictions are usually on the gloomy side

If Phil sees his shadow, we’re led to believe we have another six weeks of winter ahead. This is something he does more often than not. Since 1887, he's seen his shadow 101 times and predicted an early spring on just 17 occasions. Nine years' worth of predictions made in the late 19th century went unrecorded.

8. Phil's not the only weather-watching groundhog around

While he's certainly the most recognizable, Punxsutawney Phil isn't the only critter in town who tries his paw at predicting the weather. There are at least a dozen others who get lots of attention on Groundhog Day, including Canada's Wiarton Willie and the late Staten Island Chuck.

9. There's even an armadillo vying for his job

The great state of Texas is known for a lot of things, but groundhogs aren't one of them. Instead, they turn to an armadillo known as "Bee Cave Bob" to find out whether spring is on its way or if winter is staying put.

10. And Alaska's a whole different story

Alaskans have a reputation for being pioneers, and the way they celebrate Groundhog Day is proof of their innovation. Each February 2nd, residents keep their eyes peeled for Marty the Marmot, a warm-blooded creature resembling a slightly overlarge squirrel.

11. He's not your standard groundhog size

Most groundhogs are about 20 inches in length and weigh between 12 and 15 pounds, but not Phil. At 22 inches long and weighing 20 pounds, he's definitely a bit on the fluffy side.

12. But his fans appreciate his extra bulk

Each year, thousands of people converge on the little town of Gobbler's Knob to await Phil's weather prediction. On average, a crowd of about 30,000 comes from near and far to join in the festivities.

13. Local businesses cash in on his fame

Only about 5,500 people live in Gobbler's Knob full-time, so the uptick in traffic come February 2nd is definitely welcome to nearby businesses. It's estimated that the average visitor spends about $200 for the trip and the overall economy sees as much as a $5 million boost.

14. Phil's a bit of an innovator himself

Anyone who's anyone is using social media to stay connected these days, and Phil is no exception. Not only does he have his own Facebook page and YouTube channel, he also pops in to say hi from time to time on Twitter.

15. He's not afraid to rub elbows with higher-ups

While most groundhogs prefer to spend their time underground, Punxsutawney Phil is a bit more social. In 1986, he trekked as far as Washington, D.C., to meet President Ronald Reagan and in 1995, he was a guest on The Oprah Winfrey Show.

16. Or talk politics

Phil seems like a pretty mild-mannered guy, but some issues tend to rub him the wrong way. During the Prohibition Era, he threatened to predict 60 more weeks of winter in protest of the anti-alcohol law.

17. Groundhog Day didn't even start in the U.S.

Despite how it's been embraced in the States, Groundhog Day is actually a foreign transplant. The custom supposedly began with early Christians in celebration of Candlemas Day on February 2nd, when they looked for a clear blue sky as a symbol for how much longer they had to endure winter. That tradition was carried over to Germany before settlers brought it to Pennsylvania in the 18th century.

18. It's not a global holiday

Even though Groundhog Day has its roots in European history, it hasn't spread into a worldwide phenomenon. Today, it's formally observed in the U.S. and Canada alone.

19. But some countries have similar traditions

Other countries have proven to be somewhat superstitious when it comes to predicting the weather. Germans remember Seven Sleepers Day, while in England, residents watch the skies on St. Swithin's Day (July 15th) to see if they can expect rain or sun for the following 40 days.

20. Phil doesn't live like other groundhogs

Groundhogs prefer a subterranean habitat, living in underground burrows as deep as five feet and up to 45 feet long. Phil, however, lives it up in style in a special enclosure next to the Punxsutawney Memorial Library.

21. He's made his perfect match

All those female groundhogs who are looking for love will have to look somewhere else. Phil is happily settled down with a female groundhog who goes by the name of Phyllis.

22. He doesn't hibernate like other groundhogs

Between October and March, you'll find most groundhogs snoozing away in their burrows, their heartbeats slowed to a pace of just 15 beats per minute and their body temperature hovering around 46 degrees. Phil, on the other hand, remains active year-round, although he tends to lighten up on the snacks during the winter months.

23. There's no replacing him

In 2010, animal activist group PETA called for Phil to be replaced with a robotic version over concerns about animal cruelty. Thankfully, he hasn't had to relinquish his post and as long as he keeps drinking his special elixir, it's expected he'll continue making his predictions for years to come.

Sources and References

Rebecca Lake is a journalist at CreditDonkey, a credit card comparison and reviews website. Write to Rebecca Lake at rebecca@creditdonkey.com. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook for our latest posts.

Note: This website is made possible through financial relationships with some of the products and services mentioned on this site. We may receive compensation if you shop through links in our content. You do not have to use our links, but you help support CreditDonkey if you do.

Read Next:

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The winter is half over and warmer weather is on the way, giving you time to find bargains while you wait out the cold. Look for sales to heat up around the Super Bowl and Presidents' Day – two major retail holidays that bring deep discounts.
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