History of Groundhog Day


  • The first legendary trek to Gobbler’s Knob was in 1886. In early observances, the groundhog’s predictions were conducted in private wooded areas that neighbor the town.
  • Presently, Phil makes his prediction in Gobbler’s Knob in front of tens of thousands of visitors and a global audience via international press and social media channels.
  • Members of the Inner Circle, a mystical group of keepers sworn to uphold the grand tradition of Groundhog Day, wake up Phil from his burrow and announce Phil’s prediction.
  • If Phil sees his shadow, he regards it as an omen of six more weeks of winter and returns to his hole; if not, spring is just around the corner.


  • The Groundhog Day celebration is similar to some ethnic cultures’ belief that animals awake from hibernation on specific dates.
  • Early Christians celebrated Candlemas Day, when the clergy blessed and distributed candles. Roman legions, during the conquest of the northern country, brought this tradition to the Germans, who picked it up and concluded that if the sun made an appearance on Candlemas Day, an animal (the hedgehog) would cast a shadow, thus predicting six more weeks of bad weather, which they interpolated as the length of the "Second Winter."
  • Several of Pennsylvania's earliest settlers were from Germany. They found groundhogs in many parts of the state and determined that the groundhog, which resembled the hedgehog, was an intelligent animal and decided that if the sun appeared on Feb. 2, the groundhog would see its shadow and hurry back into its underground home for another six weeks of winter.


  • During Prohibition, Phil threatened to impose 60 weeks of winter on the community if he wasn't permitted a drink.
  • In July 1966, Gobbler’s Knob was officially opened year-round to the public.
  • At some point in the 1970’s, Phil decided to forego roughing it in the great outdoors and moved into the custom-built, climate-controlled burrow in the Punxsutawney Memorial Library.
  • In 1981, Phil wore a yellow ribbon in honor of the American hostages in Iran.
  • Phil traveled to Washington, D.C. in 1986 to meet with President Reagan.
  • In 1993, Columbia Pictures released the movie “Groundhog Day,” starring Bill Murray. Since then, record crowds of more than 30,000 from throughout the world have visited Gobbler's Knob in Punxsutawney!
  • Phil debuted on “Oprah” in 1995.
  • Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell attended Groundhog Day ceremonies in 2003, making him the first sitting governor ever to do so. Governor Tom Corbett also attended the ceremony in 2012, while Governor Shapiro and his family spent Groundhog Day at Gobbler’s Knob shortly after taking office in 2023.
  • In 2009, Phil came out of his burrow with a “Terrible Towel” in support of the Pittsburgh Steelers’ sixth Super Bowl win.
  • Phil is social media savvy; his prediction was available via text in 2010 and celebrated with a Foursquare badge through 2013.
  • On Jan. 29, 2017, “The Guardians of Phil” premiered in Punxsutawney – a Discovery Channel documentary about Groundhog Day.
  • In 2021, the Groundhog Club moved its operations from the town library to the brand new Groundhog Visitor Center on the grounds of Gobbler’s Knob, complete with interactive displays and a gift shop featuring all sorts of weird and wonderful groundhog souvenirs and memorabilia.

Learn more about Groundhog Day on Phil’s official website.

*Some material adapted from “Groundhog Day 1886 to 1992” by Bill Anderson

Can't visit Gobbler's Knob on Groundhog Day? Don’t miss our Groundhog Day live stream to watch the virtual prognostication on Feb. 2 beginning at 6:30AM! Be sure to join in the conversation by using the hashtag #GHD2024 on your social channels and following along with us on Facebook, X (Twitter), YouTube, and Instagram

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