According to North American folklore, on February 2nd, Groundhog Day, Punxsutawney Phil comes out of his burrow to predict the upcoming weather. If the groundhog comes out of his burrow on a cloudy day, he will leave the burrow signaling that spring is almost here. But if he sees his shadow and retreats back into his burrow, the legend says we can expect six more weeks of winter weather. Despite a mostly cloudy day in the Northeast, Phil saw his shadow this year so it looks like winter will keep dragging on. Read on to learn everything you need to know to discuss and celebrate Groundhog Day with your little ones.
The Back Story
Groundhog Day began as a Pennsylvania German custom in southeastern and central Pennsylvania in the early 18th and 19th centuries. According to legend, a badger or groundhog is the symbol of the changing of the seasons.
The earliest recorded American reference to Groundhog Day comes from a diary entry on February 4, 1841. A storekeeper in Berks County, Pennsylvania wrote: “Last Tuesday, the 2nd, the day on which, according to the Germans, the Groundhog peeps out of his winter quarters and if he sees his shadow he pops back for another six weeks nap, but if the day be cloudy he remains out, as the weather is to be moderate.”
In North America, Groundhog Day comes seven weeks before the official first day of spring, which falls around March 20th. Some ancient traditions marked the change of season when daylight first makes significant progress against the night. Other traditions stated that spring did not begin until the length of daylight overtook night at the Vernal Equinox. The groundhog was incorporated as a yearly custom to settle the two traditions. Back then, it was common for people to predict the weather based on animals hibernation patterns.
So What Does a Groundhog Know Anyway?
I guess that question can have many different answers according to whom you ask. However, statistics within America show that Mr. Groundhog’s forecasts are 75% to 90% accurate. However, a Canadian study for 13 cities shows the success rate level to be much lower at 37%.
Fun Ways to Spend the Day
Now that you have a little more information on Groundhog Day, why not discuss the holiday and celebrate with your children. I think the best way to spend Groundhog Day would be outside celebrating the coming change of seasons. Some fun ideas for activities would include; tracing shadows, making a groundhog puppet or tracking the weather. Another fun idea would be to go on a groundhog seeking walk (if you live in an area that has groundhogs) or read books about groundhogs, their habitat and lifestyle, followed up by a snack – groundhog themed of course.
Of course, if you live near Punxsutawney, PA you could go see the groundhog’s shadow (or lack of shadow) with your own eyes. He leaves his burrow at 7:20 a.m., and then there is a whole day of entertainment scheduled. You could always catch the event on the morning news as well.
How do you celebrate Groundhog Day with your children?
Intro Image © Urville Djasim