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Groundhog Day

Punxsutawney Phil is the name given to a groundhog residing in Young Township near Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, who is the central figure in Punxsutawney's annual Groundhog Day celebration.

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Audio Article

Groundhog Day is an astronomic holiday marked on February 2, the first cross-quarter day of the year.

Did you know that Groundhog Day is among the unique traditions in the United States?   This is how the celebrations unfold: On February 2, our lovely, sizeable furry friend, the groundhog, will emerge from hibernation and their den and ‘predict’ the weather.

According to tradition, if the groundhog sees its shadow, it is believed to go back to hibernation, and the winter will continue for six more weeks. However, if it doesn’t, voila! Spring is around the corner!

What is the Story Behind Groundhog Day?

The first official celebration of Groundhog Day took place in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, on Feb.2, 1887. The annual ritual is rooted in pre-Christian Candlemas traditions, where clergy would bless and distribute winter candles. The distributed candles represented how long and cold the winter season would be.

The tradition was brought to the United States by German immigrants. They expanded on this concept by selecting hedgehogs to predict the weather. After coming to America, German settlers in Pennsylvania carried on with the tradition. However, they replaced hedgehogs with groundhogs since they were plentiful in the Keystone State. The Punxsutawney Spirit newspaper was the first to print news about Groundhog Day observance in 1886.

Punxsutawney Phil is the name given to a groundhog residing in Young Township near Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, who is the central figure in Punxsutawney's annual Groundhog Day celebration.

How Accurate are Groundhogs in Predicting the Weather?

Unsurprisingly, they are not so accurate about when the season will change! So while it might be amazing and fun to consider the predictions of a furry rodent when predicting the weather, there are more accurate predictions that we can rely on for it.

Researchers put Punxsutawney Phi’s predictions at about 39% for the past 10 to 15 years. Although the percentage is decent, we cannot ignore that the source of prophecy is a mammal living in a hole! Therefore it’s pretty astounding! So, for enjoyment, this event might require us to suspend logic and enter the world of possibilities.

Bottom line: A coin of a flip might be more accurate. But the tradition is quite fun, especially for children and families.

The Truth:

Groundhogs come out of their hibernation around the beginning of February, not for seasonal predictions, but to prepare for mating. They hibernate throughout the winter and emerge at the end of the season to prepare for mating in March and birth in April. This helps the newborns to access enough food in May hence growing effectively.

Why would the groundhogs emerge in February if they wait until March to mate?

Because even a groundhog might need to rekindle their romance during the month of love, Valentine’s Day!

The groundhog lives in solitude for most of the year, whereby they maintain a feeding territory around their burrow and rarely make contact with others. However, they reestablished bonds in February, making Groundhog Day more about finding new bonds than predicting the end of the winter season.

Facts about Groundhogs

  • Groundhogs, also known as woodchucks or whistle pigs, belong to 14 ground squirrels or marmot species.
  • They are found in the more significant parts of the central and Eastern US and some of Canada and Alaska.
  • They look like little bears when they stand on their hind legs.
  • The mammals have sharp claws to dig burrows in the ground. They dig holes that can be 6 feet deep and 20 feet wide.
  • The caves are so complicated that each mammal has its bathroom chamber.
  • They are the most prominent members of the marmots’ family, growing to about 17.75 to 25 inches.
  • They weigh about 6 kilograms (13 lbs) and can live in captivity for over ten years.
  • Groundhogs hibernate during winter to reduce their body temperature and metabolic rate.
  • Once they emerge from hibernation, they eat wild berries, garden vegetables, insects, and succulent plants.
  • Groundhogs are also skilled swimmers and climbers, which makes it easy for them to escape some of their predators.
  • The name “Woodchuck” has nothing to do with wood or chucking.
  • Burrowing animals like skunks, raccoons, opossums, and foxes also use the extensive burrows dug by groundhogs.
  • Groundhogs don’t have many predators besides foxes, domestic dogs, and coyotes. This is because of their burrowing, climbing, and swimming skills and their large adult size.

10 Awesome Ways to Celebrate Groundhog Day

Groundhog Day is a great day for families to get together and an excellent opportunity to enjoy some yummy goodies and fun activities. Below are some fantastic activities you can try out this Groundhogs day.

1. Tour Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania.

What can be more fun during this year’s Groundhog Day celebration than visiting Punxsutawney? People gather around Gobbler’s Knob at dawn to watch for Punxsutawney Phil to emerge from his burrow. They believe that if the Woodchuck sees his shadow, the winter season will last six more weeks. If not, spring is fast approaching.

Can’t you travel to Punxsutawney? Don’t worry; you can enjoy the great event online by following a live stream.

2. Research Groundhog Day History.

Visit a local library and find books about Groundhog Day. Explore where the tradition began and how different cultures commemorate the ceremony. Groundhog Day history books can be pretty intriguing to kids causing them to learn as they have fun.

There are plenty of books about Groundhog Day stories. You can check out the following:

  • Gregory’s Shadow
  • Punxsutawney Phil and His Weather Wisdom
  • Substitute Groundhog
  • Gretchen Groundhog, It’s Your Day
  • It’s Groundhog Day
  • Geoffrey Groundhog
  • Punxsutawney Phyllis

3. Look for Local Festivities in your City

Different cities have different types of Ground Day celebrations. The festivities can include live animal shows, town festivals, or a parade, among other activities. You can also contact your city government to find different Groundhog Day festivities locations and times.

4. Watch the 1993 film Groundhog Day. 

Groundhog Day movie by Bill Murray features a weather forecaster who experiences the same day repeatedly until he learns his lesson. This movie will bring so much humor to your holiday celebration. You can invite friends to enjoy the all-time funny movie with your family. You could also watch nature documentaries about groundhogs if you have already watched this movie.

5. Learn the Groundhog Day Song

You are probably not aware that there is a Groundhog song. Your kids will have a lot of fun learning the music by Helen Slayton Hughes. You can encourage them to practice the song earlier before having a Groundhog Day sing-along.

Follow this link to watch the video:

6. Have a Look-alike Party

Invite your friends and family to your home while wearing groundhog consumes. Have prizes for those that will have the closest resemblance to a groundhog. Make it more interesting by serving them great food such as Groundhog stew for starters and Dirt Pie dessert.

7. Decorate your Home with a Forest Theme:

There is no better way to set a Groundhog Day mood than making your home look like Punxsutawney forest. For example, you can ask your kids to cut out pine-like trees from butcher paper and use them to decorate the house. You could also use pinecones or flowers as a table centerpiece. But, of course, a Forest theme works best when done outdoors.

8. Create Groundhog Masks.

Help your kids to celebrate Groundhog Day in style by creating groundhog masks out of cardstock. Guide them on how to draw their face outline on the cardstock before cutting it out with a pair of scissors. You can make this activity more fun by coloring the mask with crayons, paints, and markers, before attaching ribbons on the side.

9. Bake some Treats

No celebration is complete without treats. For example, you could bake traditional Groundhog Day cookies or make a festive cake. A tray of veggies or fruit bowls is also a good idea since groundhogs eat vegetation. You could also make a trail mix for your friends and family to enjoy.

10. Teach your Kids some Groundhog Trivia

  •  A baby groundhog is called a cub or kit.
  • Groundhogs whistle when courting or alarmed.
  • They have 22 teeth
  • They eat fruits and vegetables, vegetarians, ha!
  • They averagely weigh 12 to 15 pounds. However, Punxsutawney weighs 20 pounds.
  • Groundhogs hibernate in burrows
  • The burrows are complex and have two doorways.
  • They swim, climb, and run up to 9 miles per hour.
  • Groundhogs have a lifespan of 6 to 8 years.
  • They lose up to 50% of their body weight during hibernation.

Funniest Groundhog Day Quotes

  1. Happy Groundhog Day! Shadow or no, spring is just around the corner! – Unknown.
  2. When the groundhog casts his shadow, and the small birds sing, and the pussywillows happen, and the sun shines warm, and when the peepers peep, then it is spring – Margaret Wise Brown.
  3. The groundhogs are pretty good at eluding. If somebody tries to come after a ground hog, they burrow Jack Hanna.
  4. “Ok, campers, rise and shine, and don’t forget your booties because it’s cold out there… it’s cold out there every day.” – Phil Connors
  5. The trouble with weather forecasting is that it’s right too often for us to ignore it and wrong too often for us to rely on it. – Patrick Young
  6. To be interested in the changing seasons is a happier state of mind than to be hopelessly in love with spring – George Santayana.
  7. “What good is the warmth of summer, without the cold of winter to give it sweetness?” ― John Steinbeck
  8. “Sometimes I wish I had a thousand lifetimes. I don’t know, Phil. Maybe it’s not a curse. It depends on how you look at it.” –Rita Hanson.
  9. “I’m not going to live by their rules anymore.” – Phil Connors
  10. Turn your face to the sun, and the shadows fall behind you. ~Maori proverb
Punxsutawney Phil is the name given to a groundhog residing in Young Township near Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, who is the central figure in Punxsutawney's annual Groundhog Day celebration.
Punxsutawney Phil is the name given to a groundhog residing in Young Township near Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, who is the central figure in Punxsutawney’s annual Groundhog Day celebration.

Questions and Answers about Groundhog Day

Is Punxsutawney Phil good at his job?

Ah! It is more about luck than accuracy. Professional meteorologists have over the years shown that Phil seeing his shadow, does not correctly predict future weather patterns. Their stand is that the presence or lack of clouds on February 2 has no connection to how the weather will turn out in the next six weeks.

Does that make Groundhog Day pointless?

No. Even though the emergence of groundhogs has little to do with the weather, it is a good move for them. Looking at their environment in early February allows them to establish connections useful for mating season in March. 

Where does Phil spend the other days of the year?

Punxsutawney spends most of the year at the Groundhog Zoo, a place built for the groundhog by the Punxsutawney Library. However, the admirers of the furry friend can visit him any time of the year during operational hours for personal prognostications or pay their respect.

How many Punxsutawney have there been since 1886?

While legends have it that there has been only one P. Phil since 1886, the fact remains that an average groundhog has a lifespan of about six years. So based on this information, you can conclude.  

What do groundhogs do when they hibernate?

Hibernation is like sleeping without waking up until spring. Their heart rate, metabolism, and breathing slow down, and their body temperatures drop.

What do groundhogs do when they are not in hibernation?

They enjoy their vegetarian life and watch over their back for predators. Groundhogs are herbivores, so they only eat plants. They also watch out for hawks, coyotes, and foxes, their main predators. These fantastic animals also go swimming and spend time climbing trees.

A Groundhog Day poem for Kids (by Kids on the Yard)

Wake! Wake! Our fuzzy friend,

It’s time to leave your cozy den!

Groundhog, Woodchuck,

Both are your names!

Brown furry friend, look around,

Do you see your shadow or cloud above?

Winter or spring,

What will it be?

If you see your shadow

Winter will stay

If there’s a cloud above

Spring will sprang!

A Word from Kids on the Yard

Happy Groundhog Day to you and your family!

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