Holiday Figure / Prognosticator
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The top-dog groundhog of Groundhog Day
America's most famous groundhog, Punxsutawney Phil becomes a celebrity for a day every February 2nd, otherwise known as Groundhog Day. According to a folklore tradition, if a groundhog emerges from his burrow on that day and sees his shadow, then he will be "frightened" back into his burrow and winter will last for six more weeks. [In 2023, Phil's handlers said he did see his shadow, thereby predicting six more weeks of winter.] The city of Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania held its first whimsical Groundhog Day observances in the 1880s, and over time began to promote itself as the national center of Groundhog Day festivities. A succession of groundhogs have played the starring role of Punxsutawney Phil, the "official" Groundhog Day mascot and weather forecaster. (His handlers insist, whimsically, that there is only one Punxsutawney Phil, who is over 100 years old and drinks an “elixir of life” each year which adds seven more years to his life. In reality, groundhogs have a typical lifespan of about six years.) Of course, Phil is not actually predicting the weather, and there's no science behind the idea; it's all just for fun. Still, Phil's Groundhog Day appearance is covered eagerly by local and national media each year. Phil's fame got an added boost from the 1993 movie Groundhog Day, in which actor Bill Murray played a cynical TV weatherman caught in a time warp in Punxsutawney.
According to local records, Punxsutawney Phil sees his shadow on February 2nd around 85% of the time… Like all groundhogs, Phil is a mammal from the order Rodentia (rodents) and the genus Marmota (marmots). Groundhogs are also known as woodchucks.
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