Seriously: If we’re going to celebrate Groundhog Day, we should fire Punxsutawney Phil


(Graphic Illustration by Trin Bonner | The Collegian)

Callum Burke , Collegian Columnist

Editor’s Note: All opinion section content reflects the views of the individual author only and does not represent a stance taken by The Collegian or its editorial board.

There are very few traditions that show American pride more than camping around a hole in the February cold, awaiting a clueless groundhog to predict the weather for the upcoming six weeks. At least, that’s the case for fans of Punxsutawney Phil, the unsung hero of weather predictions in the United States and arguably the most well known of all the weather-predicting animals.


Although cute, it is time to move on from a groundhog predicting the weather — or at least time to elect a new mascot. 

Of course, the scenario above is referring to Groundhog Day, which happened Feb. 2, the halfway point between the winter solstice and spring equinox. I must admit that the day seems even more bizarre without understanding its origins. 

The first celebration of Groundhog Day took place Feb. 2, 1887, in the absurdly named town of Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, but it goes even deeper. We have early Christians and German settlers to thank for that.

Groundhog Day has ties back to two ancient holidays: Imbolc is an old pagan festival marking the beginning of spring in Celtic cultures, and Candlemas is a feast commemorating Jesus at the holy temple in Jerusalem, Israel. Candlemas celebrates Jesus and his mother’s, Mary, purification under God 40 days after his birth. Believers associate a sunny Candlemas with a longer winter and an overcast day indicating an early spring.

“Weather applications and technology have evolved enough to scientifically observe the weather and outlaw the input of a groundhog. I’d consider letting him earn a degree in meteorology, but I don’t think he’d make the grades.”

It did not take long for early German settlers of America, who settled around the 18th and 19th century, to confusingly add their own spin on the important date, stating that a groundhog is the tell-all of a long winter or early spring — and not just solely based on the day’s actual weather. Hence, Groundhog Day was born. 

The name of the famous groundhog, you ask? Uncreatively, the rodent’s surname is Punxsutawney Phil, from the town where he originated. He has been calling the weather shots since 1886. Punxsutawney Phil is not only objectively bad at his job, but statistically, his prediction percentages are abysmal enough to reason him losing the occupation altogether.

According to records kept on the holiday, various Phils have forecasted 107 instances of more winter, only citing 20 of early spring, with nine years without any records. “Even the Punxsutawney Area Chamber of Commerce, which keeps track of these things, doesn’t know what happened to Phil during those years,” according to Live Science.

The point is, of the 127 total predictions, data shows that Phil has only been correct 39% of the time. This is a terrible stat for an animal that is supposed to hold the fate of a six-week time period in my books.

Punxsutawney Phil just happened to be in the right Pennsylvania suburban town at the right time and has been suckling the teat of media coverage ever since. His numbers are low, and he flaked the celebration nine times — or he ate the records of his appearances: a celebration all about him, and he couldn’t even do his part.

One saving grace of the creation of this holiday is another groundhog, and, funny enough, he is just down the road from Phil. Some could even call them crosstown rivals. Staten Island Chuck, formally addressed as Charles G. Hogg, lives on Staten Island and serves as the official groundhog meteorologist of New York City. Phil’s talents pale in comparison to the skills of Staten Island Chuck.


According to the Staten Island Zoo, Chuck has a much more impressive percentage, correctly calling the forecast 85% of the time. That is more than double the percentage of Phil’s correct predictions.

So keep the holiday if you so dearly desire it; however, I will not personally support the overhyped premonitions of some creature that can’t even comprehend its own existence. Weather applications and technology have evolved enough to scientifically observe the weather and outlaw the input of a groundhog. I’d consider letting him earn a degree in meteorology, but I don’t think he’d make the grades. 

All I request is that if you do want to rely on a groundhog, rely on a groundhog who makes the correct predictions, such as Staten Island Chuck. 

Reach Callum Burke at or on Twitter @burkec0621.