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Today is Groundhog Day 2009 and the results are in: Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow. According to legend, this means that winter will last for six more weeks.

Despite freezing temperatures, thousands gathered at Gobbler’s Knob in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania (a borough of over 6,000 people located about 65 miles northeast of Pittsburgh) today to witness Phil emerge from his burrow and issue his famous forecast (which, considering how long and harsh this winter has been, comes as very bad news indeed to many).

The origin of Groundhog Day is rooted in a German tradition that advances the belief that on the Christian holiday of Candlemas (which falls on February 2) hibernating animals can predict weather conditions. More specifically, if the animal casts a shadow, then winter will last for six more weeks. If no shadow is seen, spring will arrive early.

Groundhog Day 2009: Where Else is it Observed?

Though arguably the most famous and high-profile modern-day observance of Groundhog Day occurs in Punxsutawney (pronounced Punks-uh-TAW-nee), the ritual is observed in other places as well. For example, did you know that Groundhog Day is observed in Canada? In fact, Canada has it’s own version of Puxsutawney Phil. His name is Wiarton Willie, and not surprisingly, he hails from the town of Wiarton in Bruce County Ontario, where a Groundhog Day festival is held each year. The Wiarton festival draws throngs of revelers and members of the media who eagerly await Wiarton Willie’s prediction. In addition, various contests and dances are held in honor of the event.

Punxsutawney is not the only town in Pennsylvania where Groundhog Day is celebrated. It also takes place in Schuylkill County, Quarryville, and Bucks County. Outside of Pennsylvania, Groundhog Day in the United States is observed in locations in Maryland and the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. And according to Wikipedia, it is celebrated “among the Amish populations of over twenty states and Canada.”

For those of you who are experiencing a harsh winter, let’s hope that next year Puxsutawney Phil predicts an early spring.

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