German tradition holds that if the sun comes out on Candlemas, the precursor to Groundhog Day, the hedgehog (or badger) will see its shadow and six more weeks of winter will follow. When German settlers came to Pennsylvania they continued this tradition, using groundhogs instead of hedgehogs to predict the weather.
The first official Groundhog Day was celebrated on February 2, 1886 in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, with a proclamation in The Punxsutawney Spirit by the newspaper’s editor, Clymer Freas: “Today is groundhog day and up to the time of going to press the beast has not seen its shadow.” The legendary first Groundhog Day trip to Gobbler’s Knob was made the following year by a group of spirited groundhog hunters who dubbed themselves “The Punxsutawney Groundhog Club.” Clymer, a member of the club, used his editorial clout to proclaim that Phil, the Punxsutawney Groundhog, was the one and only official weather prognosticating groundhog.
Phil’s fame began to spread and newspapers from around the world began to report his predictions. Growing legions of fans started making the trek to Punxsutawney every February 2, and with the release of the 1993 movie Groundhog Day, starring Bill Murray, the crowds began to number in the tens of thousands. Phil’s yearly Groundhog Day predictions are actually even entered into the Congressional Record!