Shedding light on Groundhog Day



On Feb. 2, Punxsutawney Phil will emerge from his burrow after a long winter sleep to look for his shadow. As early as 3 a.m., flocks of Phil fanatics will trek to Gobbler's Knob in the hilly, chilly town of Punxsutawney, Pa., just in time for Phil's powerful prognostication. Will there be six more weeks of winter, or is spring just around the corner?

This celebration of Groundhog Day dates back to a time when nature truly influenced our lives. It stems from similar beliefs associated with Candlemas Day, as told in an old Scottish couplet, "If Candlemas Day is Bright and Clear, there'll be two winters in the year." The legend spread to Germany where an animal, the hedgehog, was added to the picture. If the sun shone, the hedgehog would see its shadow.

German immigrants carried the tradition to their settlements in Pennsylvania where groundhogs were in profusion. They determined that the groundhog, resembling the hedgehog, was a most intelligent and sensible creature. The story was picked up by the editor of the local Punxsutawney newspaper who then claimed that the only official weather prognosticator was Phil, "Seer of Seers. The weatherman." Until 1966, the ceremony was held in secret and only Phil's prediction was revealed to the public. Since then, events, books, Web sites and even a movie have evolved around this furry little creature. The fetching nature of the groundhog and the mystery surrounding the predictions offer an opportune time to explore topics, such as those listed below, with your child.


"Greedy Groundhogs" by Judy Delton

"Wake Up, Groundhog!" by Susan Korman

"Punxsutawney Phil and His Weather Wisdom" by Julia Spencer Moutran


"The Winter Solstice" by Ellen Jackson

"Walk When the Moon Is Full" by Francis Hamerstrom


"Bear Shadow" by Frank Asch

"My Shadow" by Robert Louis Stevenson

Pub Date: 02/02/00

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