Posted by: Jack Henry | February 7, 2023

Editor’s Corner: Whistle Pigs

How dare me? I was a little frazzled last week, and though I mentioned a “Happy Groundhog Day” to you, I did not give the celebration the attention that it really deserves.

Groundhog Day occurs every year on February 2, where people wait for the official groundhog, Punxsutawney Phil, to come out of his hole and “forecast” the weather conditions for the next six weeks. This prediction is made at Gobbler’s Knob in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. During the celebration, if Phil comes out and sees his shadow (meaning the sun is out), we are in for six more weeks of winter. On the other hand, if Phil does not see his shadow when he emerges (it’s cloudy or rainy), then we will have an early spring. Spoiler alert: this year Phil saw his shadow, so keep your warm blankets ready!

Here are a few things you may not know about Groundhog Day:

  • This prediction of the weather using animals comes from ancient Europeans, who did not use groundhogs, but instead used hedgehogs and badgers. German-speaking immigrants came to the United States and continued to use animals, but instead of the badgers and hedgehogs they adopted the groundhog to forecast weather.
  • Groundhog Day has its roots in the ancient Christian tradition of Candlemas. From Merriam-Webster:
    Since ancient times, a procession of lit candles has observed the day, whence the name Candlemas, and the observance comes from Scripture deeming Christ as "a light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel." Candlemas, given its occurrence in the beginning of February, also became a day on which people would prognosticate the arrival of spring according to its sunny or cloudy skies.
  • From the Farmer’s Almanac:
    Punxsutawney Phil is the focal point of the oldest and largest annual Groundhog Day celebration, held in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. According to, 1886 marked the first time that Groundhog Day appeared in Punxsutawney newspaper, but 1887 was the first time the official trek to Gobbler’s Knob took place.

And the name, groundhog, is not their only label. As someone whose family comes from Pennsylvania, I can tell you that I heard much less about groundhogs growing up than I did about woodchucks. Both are names for the same animal, a North American marmot (a large—very large—ground squirrel). Woodchuck comes from the indigenous American names for the animal wuchak, wejack, and possibly otchek. My grandpa and uncle referred to them as something even cuter: whistle pigs.

“Stop right there! I predict six more weeks of winter, people. I’m crawling back into my underground mansion!”

Kara Church | Technical Editor, Advisory | Technical Publications

Pronouns: she/her | Call via Teams |

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