Thousands of people gathered Saturday at Gobbler’s Knob in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, to watch a famous groundhog deliver his highly anticipated forecast. “Faithful followers, there is no shadow of me and a beautiful spring it shall be,” a member of Phil’s Inner Circle read from the groundhog’s prediction scroll to the cheers and applause from the crowd.
The tradition has its roots in a Christian religious holiday called Candlemas Day, dating back to ancient times. It was celebrated midway between the winter solstice and the spring equinox. In 1887, an editor of a Punxsutawney newspaper declared Phil America’s official weather-predicting groundhog. Newspapers across the country picked up the story, and the tradition caught on. But even though Phil has been in the weather-prediction business for more than 130 years, his predictions aren’t always correct. In the past decade, Phil has predicted a longer winter seven times and an early spring three times. He was only right about 40% of the time. “You’re better off trying to decide what the rest of February and March will look like by flipping a coin,” CNN meteorologist Judson Jones said. Like Phil, Staten Island Chuck also predicted an early spring.