Puxtawny Phil is an American legend. A true hero of a hedgehog.

i can’t quite remember if i knew of him before i saw the movie, or after, but one thing is clear: the American tradition of consulting a rodent to predict the next few months of weather every year on Feb 2 keeps the arguably mediocre movie, “Groundhog Day”, still available and streaming on demand 24 years after its original release. i’m pretty sure it kicks in a few bucks of royalties to Bill Murray’s pocket annually around this time too as folks search it out to watch – remembering it to be just a little more funny than it actually is.

Still makes me laugh

But that doesn’t mean i won’t watch it again this year, oh no! That and a giant bowl of popcorn is my Saturday night plan!! It’s tradition!

This year though, i actually became a little curious about this strange holiday. i mean – why a hedgehog? What is so important about seeing its shadow? Does it even cast a shadow? The little fat dudes are pretty low to the ground..what does a hedgehog shadow even look like?

So i turned to everyone’s go-to expert on all the things: Wikipedia. And on there i learned:

  • Puxatawny Phil is indeed a male hedgehog
  • He has a 46% accuracy rate
  • Hedgehogs are also known as “whistlepigs”
  • Hedgehog/whistlepigs live about 8 years. But Phil is immortal. He drinks a special potion every 7 years that allows him to live another 7 years. (Yes, sweetie, that really IS the same hamster, your special friend! He just changed his color a little while you slept!!)
  • Phil can also, apparently, speak English. He checks out his shadow, then whispers to the guy in the top hat his prediction if winter is over or not.
  • Only Pennsylvania German dialect can be spoken at the annual event or you must pay a penalty – usually a dime or a quarter.
  • Phil brings in over $1,000,000 in tourist revenue for the state of Pennsylvania each year. Presumably in small change. (See above)

After further research, i learn that actually, hedgehogs don’t care one whit about their shadow. (If they cast one at all..still not sure about that) The main reason a male hedgehog leaves his burrow at this time of year is that it is mating season and he’s trolling for chicks. So…he’s horny. Not clairvoyant. And let’s just put it out there – i’m pretty sure he’s not immortal, either.

So WHY do we keep listening to an endless series of horny male Puxatawny Phils telling us the weather and getting it right only half the time?

Smile for the ladies!

 

Well, history tells us that there was a conflict between two differing belief systems on exactly WHEN winter ends. Some believed it was at Imbolc, February 2nd, the seasonal turning of the Celtic calendar. Others, especially in the Western hemisphere, believed that it was at the Vernal Equinox in March, when the length of daylight finally becomes longer than the night. Where these two cultures clashed, they decided that the only way to settle it was to consult the whistlepig. Duh.

And that’s how Groundhog Day was born!

Maybe.

But what i know for sure is, the Chinese got nothing on us with their crackle-pop Lunar New Year and the colorful red rooster.

We’ve got men in top hats, speaking an obscure German dialect, holding up a fat rodent with a woody and telling us what the weather is gonna bring and getting it right half the time. And we collectively pay a million smackers to be there to hear it in person.

Cuz we’re American. And that’s how we ROLL.

 

At Gobbler’s Knob on Groundhog Day
We celebrate a world-wide Holiday
It’s mighty cold weather, you’ve been braving
Is it more winter or is it spring that you’re craving?
Since you’ve been up all night and starting to tottle
I, Punxsutawney Phil, shall not dawdle
My faithful followers, I could clearly see
A beautiful, perfect shadow of me
Six more Weeks of Winter, it shall be!

 

 

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