Celebrated every year on February 2, Groundhog Day 2024 falls on a Friday. It’s a day when townsfolk in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, gather in Gobbler’s Knob to watch as an unsuspecting furry marmot is plucked from his burrow to predict the weather for the rest of the winter. But anyone who bought a copy of the Farmers’ Almanac, or checked out our extended forecast, has known what’s in store for the rest of the winter since August!
First, What Does The Farmers’ Almanac Say?
Whether or not you follow the groundhog, or simply enjoy the folklore (don’t worry, we don’t mind), we’re here to tell you: winter isn’t going anywhere any time soon—our long-range predictions say winter is here for the long haul.
No matter what the weather, spring will officially arrive with the Vernal Equinox on March 19, 2024, at 11:06 p.m. EST, however, the warmer, spring-like weather may not come until a little later.
How Does The Almanac Do it?
The Farmers’ Almanac uses a mathematical and astronomical formula to make our long-range weather predictions, not folklore. We look at sunspot activity, tidal action of the Moon, positions of the planets, and many other factors to carefully craft a year’s worth of weather forecasts. Fans of the Almanac say our weather forecasts are accurate 80-85% of the time.
Even though Phil is wrong on occasion, we still respect the groundhog and a “holiday” that’s stuck around for more than a century, and one in which we are reminded to put down our high-tech gadgets and consult with nature.
Shadow vs. No Shadow Folklore
People often get confused about what it means if the groundhog sees his shadow or not. Let’s clear it up. According to folklore:
- If Phil does see his shadow (meaning the Sun is shining) on Groundhog Day 2024, winter will not end early, and we’ll have another 6 weeks of it.
- If Phil doesn’t see his shadow (cloudy) we’ll have an early spring.
How Accurate Are The Groundhog’s Predictions?
Members of Punxsutawney Phil’s “inner Circle” claim his predictions are 100% accurate. However sources that keep track of his accuracy claim his success rate is more like 39%. Since Punxsutawney Phil first began prognosticating the weather back in 1887, he has predicted an early end to winter 20 times.
The History of Groundhog Day
The date of the celebration coincides with the medieval feast of Candlemas, and its pre-Christian predecessor, Imbolc, a day also rich in folklore. An old Scottish prophecy foretells that sunny weather on Candlemas means a long winter. The tradition is recounted in this poem:
As the light grows longer
The cold grows stronger
If Candlemas be fair and bright
Winter will have another flight
If Candlemas be cloud and snow
Winter will be gone and not come again
A farmer should on Candlemas day
Have half his corn and half his hay
On Candlemas day if thorns hang a drop
You can be sure of a good pea crop.
From Hedgehogs to Groundhogs
Ancient Europeans had long held that badgers and hedgehogs could foretell the weather, and came to combine this belief with the rituals surrounding Candlemas. After emigrating to Southeastern Pennsylvania, early German-American settlers substituted groundhogs, which were plentiful in their new homeland.
The First Celebration
Punxsutawney Phil is the focal point of the oldest and largest annual Groundhog Day celebration, held in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. According to groundhog.org, 1886 marked the first time the event appeared in Punxsutawney newspaper, but 1887 was the first time the official trek to Gobbler’s Knob took place. That means that Groundhog Day 2024 will be the 138th celebration!
Punxsutawney Virtual Event
Visit the official Punxsutawney Phil website for the live action at Gobbler’s Knob and see for yourself what he will predict.
Phil’s last forecast (2023) was 6 more weeks of winter!
Phil Is Not The Only Prognosticator! Other Groundhog Forecasters
Phil may be the most famous, but there are a number of other groundhogs that hold court at celebrations across North America (many of which also hold virtual events). They include:
Buckeye Chuck in Ohio
Dunkirk Dave in Dunkirk, New York
General Beauregard Lee in Jackson, Georgia
Holtsville Hal, Suffolk County, Long Island, N.Y. (See video below!)
Jimmy the Groundhog in Sun Prairie, Wisconsin
Malverne Mel in Malverne, New York
Octoraro Orphie in Quarryville, Pennsylvania
Shubenacadie Sam in Shubenacadie, Nova Scotia, Canada
Sir Walter Wally in Raleigh, N.C.,
Staten Island Chuck in New York City
9 Facts About Groundhogs You May Not Have Known
Bring some knowledge to your Groundhog Day 2024 celebration with these fun facts:
- Groundhogs, also known as woodchucks, are a type of marmot, large rodents related to squirrels.
- They have a large habitat, extending throughout most of North America, from Alaska to as far south as Alabama.
- In the wild, groundhogs usually live two to three years but have been known to live up to six years. In captivity, they can live much longer. The original Wiarton Willie—one of Canada’s most famous prognosticators—lived to be 22 years old.
- Groundhogs are typically 16-26 inches long and weigh 4 to 9 pounds, but they can weigh much more — Punxsutawney Phil weighs 20 lbs!
- They actually have two coats of fur: a thick, wooly, grey undercoat and a longer coat of silky brownish hairs. This helps to keep them warm throughout the year.
- Groundhogs prefer to eat wild grasses, leaves, berries, and, as any gardener who’s ever had one around knows, food crops. They will also occasionally eat nuts, insects, grubs, snails, and other small animals.
- The average groundhog can move approximately 700 pounds of dirt when digging its burrow. Burrows can be up to 46 feet long and up to 5 feet underground.
- They hibernate during the winter, usually between October and March or April, depending on the climate.
- If in danger, they will produce a high-pitched alarm whistle to warn the rest of its family. This is how they got the nickname “whistle pig” in some regions. Other sounds include squeals, barks, and tooth grinding.
Test your knowledge of groundhogs with our Quiz!
Join The Discussion
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