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Groundhog Day: Behold, a Furry Fortuneteller

There are three important things that set the people of Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, apart from everyone else in America:</br></br>1) They can spell <em>Punxsutawney</em>,</br>2) they know the difference between a groundhog and a hedgehog, and …</br></br>… 3) they can divine the future of American weather by presenting said groundhog with an opportunity to gaze upon its own mystical shadow. If the groundhog sees his shadow when he’s brought forth from his burrow on Gobbler’s Knob, it means six more weeks of winter; if not, spring shall come early.</br></br><strong>Punxsutawney Phil: Life &amp; Legend</strong></br></br>Like many American traditions, the magical groundhog stems from Christian traditions that were imported from Europe long ago. As an offshoot of the Candlemas celebration, it was the Germans who first introduced a burrowing mammal to the festivities – and back then it <em>was</em> a hedgehog.</br></br>Short on hedgehogs in the good ol’ U.S of A., it was Pennsylvania’s early German settlers that decided the groundhog would make a fine substitute.</br></br><strong>Punxsutawney Phil: Nine Lives &amp; Counting</strong></br></br>Punxsutawney Phil made his debut in 1887, but back then his name was Pete. Legend has it that the name was changed in the ‘50s by an irritable newsman by the name of William Swartworth. Swartworth thought covering the Groundhog Day festivities was a waste of real news reporters’ time, so to stick it to The Man he reported in 1952 that Pete had died and that Phil was his son.</br></br>Unbelievably, the name stuck. Or, so the story goes.</br></br>No one knows exactly how many famous Phils (and Petes) there have been, but we do know that the average groundhog lives for six years and that 2015 will mark the 119th prediction made by the wizardly woodchuck(s). Do a little math and that comes to about … 20 groundhogs.</br></br>Of course, the people of Punxsutawney would never make such a claim. For them, Punxsutawney Phil is the stuff of legend; a perennial whistle-pig with the power to predict the future – even if he’s only been right 39% of the time.
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