Groundhog Day 2019

Published 1:03 pm Friday, February 1, 2019

February 2, 2019.

The second day of the second month.

The 33rd day of the New Year.

Candlemas, 40 days after Christmas.

Groundhog Day!

If you rely on the groundhog to predict weather for the weeks ahead, then February 2 is a special day for you. And, you are in good company that includes the folks in Gobblers Knob and Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania.

Punxsutawney held its first Groundhog Day in the 1800s. The first recorded journey was made in 1887 to Gobblers Knob where the weather forecasting groundhog lives. Known as Punxsutawney Phil, he is in the spotlight for a famous celebration each year.

Described as the “…only true weather forecasting groundhog,” Phil reportedly issues predictions that are always correct. On February 2, Phil comes out of his burrow at Gobblers Knob to predict the weather for the rest of the winter.

According to legend, if Punxsutawney Phil sees his shadow, there will be six more weeks of winter weather. If he does not see his shadow, there will be an early spring.

Thousands of followers from all over the world watch on this date, in person at Gobblers Knob and via the internet and television, to get Phil’s up-to-date weather prediction.

The celebration began with Pennsylvania’s earliest settlers. They brought with them the legend of Candlemas Day that “… clear weather on Candlemas forebodes a prolonged winter.”

This Christian feast prompted a noted Virginian to send Candlemas cards to friends and relatives each year. He was Robert Porterfield who founded the Barter Theatre during the Great Depression in 1933. Barter was designated the State Theatre of Virginia in 1946.

Many well-known stars of stage, screen, and television studied and performed early in their careers at Barter. Although Bill Murray and Andie McDowell who starred in the movie “Groundhog Day” are not Barter alumni, the movie proved to be popular and helped boost recognition of the custom and to extend the popularity of Punxsutawney Phil.

If you are one of those who follows Phil’s appearance each year, February 2 is indeed a special day for you. Enjoy!

William H. Baker, native of Claiborne County and former resident of Middlesboro, may be contacted at wbaker@limestone.edu.