The nation's attention turns to western Pennsylvania this morning to watch the country's most famous groundhog, Punxsutawney Phil, determine whether 2024 will bring an early spring or a longer winter. The prescient land-beaver will pick one of two scrolls, each containing separate wintery prophecies.
As is tradition, the slumberous whistle-pig will join his top-hatted crew to see whether he'll spot his shadow (foretelling six more weeks of winter) or relax a bit with his admiring fans (predicting an early spring). Phil is right about 40% of the time—or an impressive 60% if you flip the somewhat arbitrary rules.
The ceremony was originally conceived of by a local newspaper editor in 1886 but has its roots in Eastern European celebrations of the midway between the winter solstice and spring equinox—and also falls on the lesser-known Christian holiday, Candlemas.
Historical accounts suggest farmers used the appearance of hibernating mammals to signal spring. In reality, science suggests the salacious marmot likely appears to check for mates.
Editor's note: Much like Phil, our preview has become a tradition at 1440—and after seven years, we've run out of ways to describe the critter. Know a different name for groundhogs? Let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org!