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The legendary groundhog's early morning prediction was livestreamed in a virtual event this year

By Rachel DeSantis
February 02, 2021 07:44 AM
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As if the heavy snowfall in the northeast wasn't enough of an indicator, we're in for six more weeks of winter, says Punxsutawney Phil.

The legendary groundhog emerged from his snowy hole on Gobbler's Knob Tuesday morning and saw his shadow, meaning that, per tradition, an extra few weeks of winter is the cards this year.

The annual festivities in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania were virtual and livestreamed this year due to the coronavirus pandemic, leaving Phil without his usual crowd of thousands on hand to celebrate the 135th Groundhog Day.

Still, the celebration went on as planned, despite both the pandemic and inclement weather; as it lightly snowed in Punxsutawney early Tuesday.

"The event will take place virtually no matter the weather," a spokesperson for the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club previously told PEOPLE. "We never cancel because of weather."

Other virtual events also took place in the small town, and fans of Phil's were able to buy crowd cutouts of themselves to appear at the ceremony, club President Jeffrey Lundy said.

The origins of Groundhog Day date back to the early days of Christianity in Europe, according to the Pennsylvania Tourism Office.

The current celebration has roots in Candlemas Day, when Christians would take their candles to the church to have them blessed. If skies were clear that day, it meant an extended winter.

Candlemas Day eventually evolved to include a hedgehog looking for his shadow — if he saw it, there would be six more weeks of bad weather, according to German lore.

As more German settlers came to the U.S., they adapted their traditions, and replaced the hedgehog with a groundhog, which lived in the area.

Groundhog Day was first recorded in Punxsutawney in 1886, and the tradition has only grown in popularity with each passing year.

Groundhog handler AJ Dereume holds Punxsutawney Phil
Groundhog handler AJ Dereume holds Punxsutawney Phil in February 2020
| Credit: Jeff Swensen/Getty Images

Though Phil predicted last year that an early spring was on the horizon, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration previously reported that he is only right 40 percent of the time.

"You're better off trying to decide what the rest of February and March will look like by flipping a coin," said CNN meteorologist Judson Jones.

Punxsutawney Groundhog Club records also showed that Phil is far more likely to see his shadow and has only predicted an early spring 20 times in the last 133 years.