(WMC) - In the early morning hours of Friday, February 2, the eyes of the country will be on the tiny town of Punxsutawney, PA anxiously waiting for a furry groundhog to emerge from his burrow to indicate what the weather may hold for the coming weeks.
Tradition has it that if the groundhog sees his shadow then we'll all have to endure six more weeks of winter, but if he does not, then we can expect an early spring.
The tradition of Groundhog Day has roots that extend back to the Romans and the Christian Candlemas Day when priests would distribute candles as a sign of the cold winter still to come.
The Romans shared this tradition with the Germans, who then added another dimension by including the activity of the hedgehog to predict the amount of winter cold left in the season.
In the early 1800s, the tradition carried over into the States where many Germans settled into the tiny town of Punxsutawney, PA. However, there were no hedgehogs in Punxsutawney, but there was an abundance of groundhogs.
So, the tradition of using a groundhog to predict the amount of winter cold left in the season came into being.
Unfortunately, in those early days on February 2, the predictor often became the dinner as well. Today the groundhog is spared from the table and lives a much more luxurious lifestyle.
Punxsutawney Phil and the tradition of Groundhog Day is orchestrated each year by the Inner Circle, a group of 15, who care for and plan all the festivities surrounding the annual tradition of Groundhog Day.
The first Groundhog Day celebration took place with the townsfolk in Gobblers Knob, PA in 1887. Today it has grown into an annual celebration that draws more than 30,000 people each year.
This Friday, thousands will gather to see firsthand what the groundhog predicts and if spring will come sooner than later.
On a final note, according to Stormfax Punxsutawney Phil has only been right 39 percent of the time.