February 2 marks the traditional US holiday known as Groundhog Day. According to an old American tradition, on this day we look to the humble groundhog as it exits its burrow to see when winter will end this year.
If the groundhog leaves its burrow and is able to see its own shadow - i.e. it's a sunny day - it means that there are 6 more long weeks of winter in store for us. But if the day is cloudy and the groundhog is unable to see its own shadow, it indicates that winter will come to an end very soon.
In 131 years of weather predicting, Punxsutawney Phil has not seen his shadow on just 17 occasions, forecasting an early spring.
The legend goes that unlike most groundhogs that live for about 8 years, Punxsutawney Phil is a centennial and still holding his own. But of course, a number of different representatives of the species have taken on the role of weather forecaster over the years.
It's believed that the groundhog leaves its lair on February 2 after waking up from winter hibernation. The animal does this to check whether or not spring has arrived.
It's also crucial whether the groundhog returns immediately to its burrow or stays outside for awhile. If it returns right away to its underground lair, it means that there's going to be a severe drop in temperatures. But if it remains outside it's a sign that warmer conditions are on the way.
Punxsutawney Phil, who officially predicts how much longer winter will last, lives in the state of Pennsylvania. He bears the title of official spring forecaster and resides in, you guessed it, the borough of Punxsutawney.
Traditionally, on February 2 every year, men dressed in tuxedos and sporting top hats go up to the so-called Gobbler's Knob, where Punxsutawney Phil resides. One of the men takes Phil out of his lair and brings his ear close to Phil's snout, so that the animal can whisper to him when spring will arrive.
Vast crowds gather at Punxsutawney Phil's burrow every year to mark the event. Phil has his own minibus - and reserved seat in the vehicle - with which he tours the major sights around town.
Phil has a wife but no children. His favorite treat is fruity snacks with muesli. On several occasions throughout the year, Phil entertains the gathered crowds by pretending to be dead. He lies down on his back with his paws up and by the time people start worrying and calling for help, he's already up on his feet again.