Every year on Feb. 2, just a couple of miles outside the town of Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, in a little clearing at the top of a wooded hill named Gobbler’s Knob, a groundhog climbs out of his burrow around 7:30 a.m. ET and is met by a crowd of hundreds of onlookers.
The groundhog’s name is Phil and the spectators aren’t there to see Phil just because he’s cute (though he is), they’re there to watch him find (or not find) his shadow. As the legend goes, if Phil sees his shadow on the morning of Feb. 2, then there will be six more weeks of winter, but if he doesn’t, an early spring is upon us.
This Groundhog Day tradition dates all the way back to 1886, according to The Hill, and the coronavirus pandemic is not going to keep Phil from completing his yearly duty. But, things will be different.
In November, the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club, the organization that has carried on the Groundhog Day tradition for well over century now, published a press release stating that this year’s ceremony will be held online.
“The health and safety of our faithful followers and everyone associated with Phil’s prognostication has been our No. 1 priority,” the statement reads.
No guests or attendees will be allowed on the grounds due to the risk of COVID-19, according to the statement.
According to the club’s website, a livestreamed event will take place Tuesday at 6:30 a.m. ET on groundhog.org. The site currently displays a countdown timer leading up to the event.
More on Groundhog Day
According to the Weather Channel, weather conditions can play a significant role in Phil’s big moment. On sunny days, shadows are clear and well defined. While on cloudy days, the sun’s light is refracted and softened by cloud coverage, making shadows more faint and difficult to see. According to the site, Phil will have a tough time finding his shadow this year as Punxsutawney is expected to have lingering cloud cover, gusty winds and possibly even snow showers.
Historically, Phil’s predictions are more frequently wrong than right. According to a 2020 article on Earthsky.org, Phil holds a 39% accuracy rate, though in 2020 he accurately predicted an early winter as he did not see his shadow for the second consecutive year.
‘Groundhog Day’ — the movie
According to EarthSky.org, Groundhog Day became much more popular after the 1993 Bill Murray movie of the same name entered the cultural zeitgeist. Justwatch.com states that the “Groundhog Day” movie isn’t currently available on any major streaming service, but those seeking to celebrate the holiday with Bill Murray can rent the film on Amazon, Google Play, Redbox, YouTube, Apple TV among other video-on-demand providers.