5 Burning (Burrowing?) Questions About Groundhog Day, Answered

Where does Punxsutawney Phil spend the other 364 days of the year?

Photo: Tim Boyle/Newsmakers/Getty

It's that time of the year again!

Aside from the general absurdity of taking meteorological advice from some bottom-dweller who doesn't even have a barometer, let alone a college degree, a closer inspection of Groundhog Day (Feb. 2) can lead to some perplexing questions.

We burrowed down and dug out the answers to five of these conundrums so you can have some clarity ahead of tomorrow morning's big event in Pennsylvania.

1. Why the groundhog?

What makes this digger the meteorological mastermind of the animal kingdom? History. Groundhog Day began as a Pennsylvania German custom in the 18th and 19th centuries. These American settlers pulled their tradition from European weather lore that used the appearance of hibernators, like badgers, as a sign it was time to prepare for spring. The Pennsylvanian German folk had to work with their surroundings, and so they decided on the groundhog to replace the animals of European tradition.

2. Are groundhogs actually good at this job?

Eh, it's more about luck. Professional meteorologists have shown that Punxsutawney Phil seeing his shadow is not the final word on future weather patterns, mostly because the presence or lack of cloud cover on Feb. 2 has no definite correlation to what the season will be like for the next six weeks.

3. So, is Groundhog Day pointless?

While groundhogs popping out of the dirt on this day don't help us, it's a useful move for the animal. Taking a look at the world in early February helps them establish connections that will hopefully become useful for mating season in March. Think of it as the groundhog's version of Valentine's Day.

4. Where does Punxsutawney Phil spend the other 364 days of the year?

Like Santa Claus, P. Phil has his own North Pole that he retreats to during his lengthy off-season. The famous groundhog spends most of his time at the Groundhog Zoo, a cozy home built for him at the Punxsutawney Library in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. Groundhog admirers can visit him year round, during operating hours, to pay their respects and try for some personal prognostications.

5. How many Punxsutawney Phils have there been?

Legend has it there has only been one Punxsutawney Phil since the groundhog started making his prognostications in 1886. Facts say that groundhogs have an average lifespan of six years, so we will let you make your own conclusions. Punxsutawney Phil is protected and cared for by the Groundhog Club. The president of this group is the individual who gets the privilege of hearing Phil's prediction in "Groundhogese" and translating it for the public.

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