Happy Groundhog’s Day! Are you trying to explain what Groundhog’s Day is all about to your little one? Here you’ll find a plethora of information, activity and games that we hope will help you along the way. This is a great time to explore light and shadow in math, science, and art and have fun with the following collection of groundhog games and activities. We hope you enjoy some of our favorite collection of Groundhog Day activities below. There’s fun for all ages!
Groundhog’s Day: A History
When the first settlers arrived in the area known today as Punxsutawney (Pennsylvania) – about 80 miles northeast of Pittsburgh – they brought with them from Europe a centuries-old tradition known as Candlemas Day. On Candlemas Day, clergy would bless candles and distribute them to the people. The weather on Candlemas Day was considered an important indicator of the weather to come, according to an old English song:
If Candlemas be fair and bright,
Come, winter, have another flight.
If Candlemas brings cold and rain,
Go, winter, and come not again.
Long ago, German peoples picked up on the Candlemas custom. If the sun shone on Candlemas Day, the Germans believed, the hedgehog would cast a shadow and another six week of winter was inevitable.
Hedgehog vs. Groundhog
When the Germans arrived in the Americas, no hedgehogs were to be found. But another similar animal, the groundhog – or woodshuck – was here. Believed by the native Indians to be “a wise and sensible animal,” the groundhog became a hedgehog stand-in. So it is the tradition was born. Today, we call February 2nd “Groundhog Day.” And when one thinks of Groundhog Day, one always first thinks of Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania’s best-known citizen – Punxsutawney Phil! If Phil sees his shadow when he comes out of his burrow, we’re in for six more weeks of winter weather. Or so the story goes.
Story Time: Bear Shadow by Frank Asch
In this story, a bear attempts to escape a shadow that seems to be chasing him. This is a great book for children just beginning to understand what a shadow is. Ask your little one to help you find the sun and bear’s shadow as you read. Trace a line with your finger from the sun to bear’s shadow. For a really fun time, have a flashlight and turn off all the lights and explore how changing the position of the light changes the shadow.
Here are some other wonderful Groundhog Day books that your little one will definitely enjoy.
A Garden for a Groundhog by Lorna Balian
Groundhog’s Day at The Doctor by Judy Delton
Geoffrey Groundhog Predicts the Weather by Bruce Koscielniak
It’s Groundhog Day by Steven Kroll
Wake Up Groundhog by Carol Cohan
Will Spring be Early? Or Will Spring Be Late? By Crockett Johnson
My Shadow by Robert Lewis Stevenson
Shadowville by Michael Bartalos
Nothing Sticks Like a Shadow by Ann Tompect
Me and My Shadow by Arthur Dorros
Mr. Wenk and His Shadow by Dick Gackenback
Shadow by Marcia Brown
- Another name for a groundhog is a whistle pig.
- The first recorded “Groundhog’s Day” in Punxsutawney was February 2, 1886.
- The word “woodchuck” comes from the Indian word Oijik (wejak), or Wojak. Indian lore has it that their forbears began life as animals; the woodchuck was recognized as the “grandfather” of the earliest inhabitants of the area.
- Early settlers ate woodchuck.
- Punxsutawney Phil’s complete nickname is “The Seer of Seers, Sage of Sages, Prognosticator of Prognosticators and Weather Prophet Extraordinary.”
- Promoting Punxsutawney Phil was the idea of the owner of the Punxsutawney Spirit newspaper. He thought promoting the area would bring more business to develop in the town.
- Punxsutawney is sometimes called “The Weather Capitol of the World.”
- Punxsutawney Phil has visited the White House and been on Oprah’s TV show.
- The town in which the movie Groundhog Day was filmed isn’t really Punxsutawney at all. The movie was filmed in Woodstock, Illinois!