Punxsutawney Phil – star of Groundhog Day
Who is this chubby rodent?
Phil is a 9kg groundhog who lives in the American town of Punxsutawney. Every February 2, he emerges out of his burrow to forecast the weather for the next six weeks, to predict an early spring or a longer winter. Up to 40,000 well-wishers flock to the Pennsylvanian woodland every year to witness Phil’s unusual prophecy on Groundhog Day, a celebration organized by his ‘Inner Circle’, a group of 15 men dressed in top hats and tuxedos.
How does he predict the weather?
It's been said that if Phil sees a shadow when he comes out of his burrow, there will be six more weeks of winter. This belief is based on the Christian feast of Candlemas Day, the day on which if the sun shone (thus casting a shadow), there would be two winters.
To be more precise, Phil 'speaks' to the inner circle’s president in "Groundhogese" and his prediction is then translated for the whole world. "When the Inner Circle president is elected, he is bestowed with the special cane made from acacia wood. While he possesses the cane, he and only has the power to understand Groundhogese," Ron Ploucha, Phil’s handler and ‘Inner Circle’ member, told Metro. “Groundhogese is not a verbal language. It’s just based on facial expressions Phil makes.”
How has his predictions been?
According to records kept since 1887, Phil's predictions have been right less than 40 per cent of the time. But Ploucha resolutely says, "Phil's never wrong. People just misinterpret how it all works.
"There are two people on Earth who are infallible: the Pope is one of them, Phil is the other."
Phil has been in the weather-predicting business for a while…
Phil is 126 years old, Ploucha and co say, despite the fact groundhogs in captivity live for about 8 years. Every summer, Phil drinks some Groundhog Punch, a magic elixir that adds seven more years of life. But the secret potion only works on Phil and not on his beloved ‘wife’ Phyllis. "He gets a new wife every eight years. He's probably got more women in his life than Hugh Hefner," says Ploucha.
It's mid-winter, shouldn't Phil be hibernating?
Much to the ire of animal activists, Phil isn’t allowed to enter hibernation. The groundhog, who Ploucha admits “sleeps a lot” this time of year, has all the alfalfa pellets, dandelions and granola he can eat so she doesn’t need to conserve his energy. When he’s not predicting the weather, his celebrity takes him to parades, schools, official and corporate events year-round. “Phil and Phyllis have such a busy life that they don’t have time to raise kids,” Ploucha says.
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