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Groundhog Day

Groundhog Day (February 2) is not an official holiday, but an American tradition. If the groundhog (a marmot native to North America, also called the woodchuck) comes out of its hole in the ground, sees its shadow and runs back into the hole out of fright, spring will take a full six weeks to come. If the groundhog doesn’t see its shadow, spring will come early.

Traditionally, the groundhog in question is one named “Phil,” who makes his home on “Gobbler’s Knob” in the small town of Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. The ceremony in Punxsutawney takes place with fanfare, in front of many thousands of spectators. The Punxsutawney Groundhog Club, which runs the annual ceremony, claims that the same groundhog, Punxsutawney Phil, has been giving his prognostications for over 120 years and that all other groundhogs are imposters (the normal life span of a groundhog is about six years). The dozens of competing groundhog ceremony locations around the United States (and Canada) feel free to disagree.

Prominent among the “alternate” groundhogs is General Beauregard Lee, who makes his own weather prognostications from a game farm near Atlanta, Georgia. Despite the southerners’ courageous battle to establish their own groundhog into the popular imagination, the Pennsylvanians gained the upper hand when Punxsutawney and Phil were featured in the popular 1993 film “Groundhog Day,” starring Bill Murray and Andie MacDowell.

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