By John Friia
Crowds gather with anticipation every Feb. 2 to see if groundhogs throughout the area see their shadow to signal another six weeks of winter. This year, Pennsylvania’s Punxsutawney Phil predicted six more weeks of winter, while New York City’s Staten Island Chuck called for an early spring.
Here are some fast facts about the day and the critters that make the predictions.
A Myth Turns Into Reality
The tradition of Groundhog Day can be traced to a German myth on Candlemas Day. It was believed that if any animal came out from hibernation on Feb. 2 and saw their shadow, there would be six more weeks of winter. The myth was turned into a reality in the early 1880s, when Pennsylvanian settlers searched for a groundhog to see the shadow and local newspapers reported about the hunt. Since that day, the celebration spread throughout the country.
A Pennsylvanian Tradition
One of largest celebrations is in Punxsutawney, PA. While there is no exact number, The Punxsutawney Groundhog Club notes there are thousands of attendees that flock to the city to see Punxsutawney Phil. Dating back to 1887, the celebration offers a fun-filled weekend including breakfast with Phil, a groundhog ball, the crowning of Mr. and Mrs. Groundhog, along with the big prediction.
NYC Has Its Own Groundhog, Too
While many people focus on Punxsutawney Phil, New Yorkers pay attention to Staten Island Chuck. Some may not know that the beloved groundhog’s real name is Charles G. Hogg and has an 80 percent accuracy prognostication, according to the Staten Island Zoo. Despite biting former Mayor Bloomberg and being dropped by Mayor de Blasio, Staten Island Chuck stays at the Staten Island Zoo during the year.
Don’t Forget Holtsville Hal!
Long Islanders have participated in the Groundhog Day fun with two hometown critters. With smaller celebrations, Malverne Mel and Holtsville Hal attract crowds for their early morning predictions. In Malverne, there are live musical performance, a life-sized Mel to take selfies with, and a petting zoo.
Groundhog Day Makes Its Way To Broadway
Fans of the classic Bill Murray movie “Groundhog Day” can get ready to see it on Broadway this spring. Taking over the August Wilson Theater, the play is about weatherman Phil Connors traveling to a small town and is forced to relive the same day through funny events. Tony Award nominee Andy Karl stars as Connors, who reprises the role from London’s West End run.
John Friia is a freelance journalist and native New Yorker writing about food, drinks and lifestyle. You can follow his adventures on Instagram.