Books, Holidays

Greeting Groundhog Day

Groundhog Day is right around the corner (Feb. 2nd). What a fun way to explore whether, animals and folklore with your curious kids. There are a number of resources available online and in your local bookstore.

First, I’d like to recommend a delightful Groundhog Day book by fellow 12 x 12er Susanna Leonard Hill: Punxsutawney Phyllis (Holiday House, 2005). Hill puts a feminist spin on the Groundhog Day tradition. Phyllis is a young groundhog who knows she could do her Uncle Phil’s job. But her family is reluctant because she’s a girl. One year, Uncle Phil lets Phyllis help him make the annual prediction. He foretells six more weeks of winter when the signs of early spring are readily apparent. Phyllis changes Uncle Phil’s mind and becomes her uncle’s successor, breaking the groundhog glass ceiling. Hill also includes information about the traditions of Groundhog Day and Punxsutawney Phil. This book is a fun read for children ages 4 through 8. Hill also has some fantastic Groundhog Day resources and activities on her site. You can find them…….here.

For a brief overview of Groundhog Day’s historical roots, see the official Punxsutawney Groundhog Club web site. Essentially, the tradition has its origins in the European Candlemas Day. To quote from the Groundhog Club Web site, according to one old English poem:

“If Candlemas be fair and bright,
Come, Winter, have another flight;
If Candlemas brings clouds and rain,
Go Winter, and come not again.”

Specifically, the Germans, who later settled Pennsylvania, believed that if a hedgehog cast its shadow on Candlemas Day, there would be a second winter. In North America, German immigrants substituted native groundhogs for hedgehogs, and the rest is history.

If you are looking for Groundhog Day-related activities and lesson plans, you can turn again to the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club. Learn how to make a thumbprint groundhog, whip up groundhog cookies and more. The Mini Page also boasts activities and lesson plans for Groundhog Day.