The first year of the trek to Gobbler’s Knob was 1887. But, the traditions began much further back in history.
The Romans passed down the tradition of “Candlemas” Day to the Germans during their conquests. Canlemas marked the midpoint of winter and people would go to get their candles blessed. The groundhog wasn’t even involved until German settles brought this tradition to Pennsylvania.
Harry “Butch” Philliber is the historian and “The Iceman” of the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club. He explained, “The tradition of a hedgehog in Germany, coming out of his hole. Telling farmers whether they will have a continuous winter or if they are going yo be able to plow their fields early.”
The groundhog was introduced to this tradition when they realized they were much more plentiful than hedgehogs. But, its role was much different and Phil wouldn’t have approved.
Philliber said, “The original members of the club were more interested in eating groundhog than worshiping it.”
He explained, “Party individuals celebrated in the late summer a groundhog picnic. That groundhog picnic started to bring a large number of people from the Pittsburgh area on the railroad to the area to celebrate the groundhog picnic. “
Obviously the tradition has changed to worshipping Punxsutawney Phil rather than eating him, but one thing hasn’t. The purpose of this day has been to promote the weather capital of the world, the town, and now the lore behind Phil.