Groundhog Day Holiday – A Fan Excuse For A Party!
Groundhog Day, a popular tradition in Canada and the United States, is celebrated every year on February 2nd. It had its origins in the observance of Candlemas Day, in the early days of Christianity. The clergy would bless candles and make them available to the people, marking a milestone in the winter. The Teutons, or Germans, believing that if the sun came out on Candlemas Day, a hedgehog would come out of hibernation and cast a shadow, thereby predicting six more weeks of winter. The animal would then return to its burrow. If there was no shadow, spring would soon be there and the hedgehog would remain above ground.
Groundhog Day is now celebrated in a lighthearted manner. Many cities and towns across the United States and Canada hold festivities with their own “celebrity” groundhogs., the most well-known of which is Punxsutawney Phil of Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania.
History Of Groundhog Day
Punxsutawney celebrated its first Groundhog Day in the 1800s due to the efforts of newspaper editor Clymer H. Freas and American Congressman and newspaper publisher W. Smith; the first official observance at Gobbler’s Knob (part of the town of Punxsutawney) was on February 2, 1887.
Legend has it that Punxsutawney Phil was named after King Phillip; Phil’s original name was Br’er Groundhog.
Groundhog Day is celebrated with a touch of whimsey. It was not until 1966 that the festivities at Gobbler’s Knob were open to the public. Now, in the early 21st century, as many as 30,000 people come to Punxsutawney each year to join in the merriment. Not only have the festivities been made public, but the occasion of Phil emerging from his burrow is broadcast on national television. Punxsutawney Phil has even visited President Ronald Reagan at the White House in 1986. He was a guest on the Today show in 1960 and also on the Oprah Winfrey television show in 1995. Phil was shown live on the JumboTron in New York City’s Time Square in 2001.
DID YOU KNOW?
Other names for the groundhog are woodchuck, marmot, or whistlepig.
An average groundhog is 20 inches long and weighs anywhere from 4 to 15 pounds.
Groundhogs are herbivores living on greens, fruits, and vegetables. They are not very fond of water but manage to keep hydrated by eating dew-laden leaves. They also enjoy cultivated flowers and the bark and roots of small trees.
When alarmed, groundhogs make a whistling sound. Groundhogs also use the whistle as part of the courting ritual.
Groundhogs are extremely clean and are not bothered by insects or most germs.
To prepare for hibernation, groundhogs lay on a heavy layer of fat in late summer or early fall. By February, they have used up half of their body weight while hibernating.
SOME CELEBRITY GROUNDHOGS IN CANADA AND THE UNITED STATES:
Balzac Billy (Alberta, Canada)
Birmingham Bill (Birmingham, Alabama)
Brandon Bob (Manitoba, Canada)
Buckeye Chuck (Marion, Ohio)
Dunkirk Dave (Western New York)
French Creek Freddie (West Virginia State Wildlife Center, Upshur County, W. Virginia)
Gary the Groundhog (Kleinburg, Ontario, Canada)
General Beauregard Lee (Yellow River Game Ranch, Lilburn, Georgia)
Holtsville Hal (Long Island, New York)
Jimmy the Groundhog (Sun Prairie, Wisconsin)
Malverne Mel and Malverne Melissa (Malverne, New York)
Manitoba Merv (Oak Hammock Marsh, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada)
Octoraro Orphie (Quarryville, Pennsylvania)
Pardon Me Pete (Tampa, Florida)
Pothole Pete (New York, New York)
Punxsutawney Phil (Gobbler’s Knob, Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania)
Shubenacadie Sam (Shubenacadie Wildlife Park, Halifax, Canada)
Sir Walter Wally (North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, Raleigh, North Carolina)
Smith Lake Jake (Birmingham Zoo, Birmingham, Alabama)
Spanish Joe (Spanish, Ontario, Canada)
Staten Island Chuck (Staten Island Zoo, Staten Island, New York)
Wiarton Willie – an albino groundhog (Wiarton, Ontario, Canada)
Why Do We Celebrate Groundhog Day Today?
This year to celebrate Groundhog Day, send out a few free e-cards to people of your choice. It is sure to please them up, show your appreciation, and it does not cost you a penny.
Groundhog Day is annual event that marks the reaction of a groundhog to its own shadow. It is on Candlemas, or February 2nd that the groundhog, a stocky, burrowing animal also known as the woodchuck, awakes from its hibernation and peeks out of its hole.
According to tradition, if the groundhog is scared by its shadow, it returns to the warmth underground for another six weeks. However, if it doesn’t see its shadow, in the case of a cloudy day, it remains above ground for the quickly approaching spring.
The tradition originated in Europe, possibly spread North by Roman legions, where centuries ago, people relied upon the predictions of the badger (a relative of the groundhog) as signaling whether or not to begin planting that year’s crops.
Though by the time the practice was brought to the United States by German and British settlers, it had been largely discredited as an accurate way of foretelling the coming of spring, the ritual harks back to a time when the only weather forecasts in existence were available through interpretation of natural signs.
Groundhog Day is commemorated all over the United States, thanks to the efforts of Groundhog Clubs, local and state organizations, and the media-friendly aspect of a furry creature emerging from its hole to foretell how soon we can expect spring to arrive. According to a proverbial Scotch poem,
“If Candlemas Day is bright and clear,
Come, Winter, have another flight;
If Candlemas brings clouds and rain,
Go Winter, and come not again,”
which gives the weather on Candlemas significance without regard to a particular animal. Meanwhile, a German couplet emphasizes the size of the shadow cast by the groundhog, or other animal:
“For as the sun shines on Candlemas Day,
So far will the snow swirl until the May.”
If you want to celebrate this fun holiday literally, by observing the hole of a groundhog or similar creature for its appearance, you see that there are several possibilities as to what you will actually be watching for.
This is also great chance to learn more about other natural signs to which farmers and nature-lovers pay attention. The symbol of groundhog offers various avenue of exploration for those less inclined to bear the cold in order to see the groundhog.
Draw, paint, or otherwise depict the animal, and learn about its natural habitat and way of life. You can also make a project out of building a three-dimensional hole from which it can surface.
Place your construction underneath a lamp to recreate Groundhog Day on any day!
Groundhog Day Party Games
Groundhog Day is a celebration that is steeped in tradition – is the Ground Hog going to see his shadow? Start the season with games to suit the theme can be really enjoyable, and make for a great party.
“Groundhog Hunt” Groundhog Day Party Game
This is a fun Groundhog Day party game that is best played outside. Prior to the party, cut several copies of the letters from ‘Groundhog’ out of cardboard and hide them around the playing area. Players pair up, and must search for the letters; the first pair to find all the letters from the word ‘Groundhog’ wins a small prize.
“Groundhog Tag” Groundhog Day Party Game
This active Groundhog Day party game is best played in a large, open area with a large group of children. All that’s required for the game is a small stuffed toy to act as the “groundhog”. Players gather together and split into 2 even groups. One group forms a large circle around the other group – joining hands isn’t necessary as the circle needs to be large. The children in the circle receive the “groundhog”, and have throw it and try to hit the children running around inside the circle. As soon as someone on the inside gets hit, they must join the circle and try to tag the other children with the groundhog. When all the children have been tagged, the teams swap places and start over. The last player standing for each team receives a small prize for winning this Groundhog Day party game.
Groundhog Day Party Menu Ideas
Will winter last or is spring around the corner? Groundhog day is often a mass media day with everyone waiting to see if the groundhog will see his shadow. If you are looking for a few menu ideas or snacks for your children to celebrate the holiday just like what people do on other traditional festivals around the world, you might like to use some of the following ideas:
Groundhogs tend to eat green items such as grass so you could create an all green menu for the day. Green punch (lemonade with green food coloring, green grapes and small pieces of green apple or kiwifruit), baked good with green food coloring and green fruit salad (green grapes, green apple, kiwifruit, honeydew melon and star fruit) all work well.
A great snack for children is creating a salad with a couple of types of lettuce, carrots, tomatoes, and gonzo beans. Of course you can choose your child’s favorite vegetables and salad dressing.
Another great snack for you children is Groundhog Day Dirt Pie. All you do is take their favorite pudding or chocolate to represent dirt. Once you have made the pudding you crumble up graham crackers into the dish. To make the dessert complete you can take a Popsicle stick with a picture of a groundhog to make it look like a groundhog on his mound. You may even have children color their own groundhog.
There are many different ideas you can have for Groundhogs Day for a complete menu. If you need to create snacks for school or just to have fun around the house you will want to find different types of menu items like potatoes, vegetables, desserts with the life of the groundhog in mind. Typically groundhogs spend their days on their mounds so even cupcakes with a frosting “groundhog” on top make a fun snack.
They say that simple menus often work the best. This is definitely the case with Groundhog day. You can use these ideas or throw in a few of your own – either way your young guests are likely to be happy.
The legend says that when they emerge in a sunny day and they see their shadows they predict 6 more weeks of harsh winter and decide to hide in their burrows for 6 more weeks. If that day is cloudy and they don’t see their shadows they predict a nice spring weather in 2 weeks and they stay.
Money wise it’s a nice idea. People gather early in the mornings for the groundhogs day festivals where they are celebrated and tourists spend money on their transportation, accommodation, food, and entertainment. Relying on those predictions is another story.
Let’s use a little bit of science. The critter was hiding under the ground for months, where its dark. Naturally when they go out and it’s too bright on a sunny day their eyes are not going to take it. Also naturally when they get out of their burrows they look towards the north west where the sun is to their backs. And this direction where they’re looking is where their shadows are, so whether they see their shadows or not, this is where they are looking.
On another level, the predictions made by people watching the behavior of groundhogs on this day are not always accurate. In fact, they are only accurate 37% of the time. Now let’s remember some of the probability math we studied in the school. We have four variables here: sunny vs. cloudy, and good weather vs. bad. From the behavior of the animal sunny groundhogs days are always accompanied by a prediction of bad weather, and cloudy days are linked to good weather.
This reduces our variables to only two: sunny days with prediction of bad weather vs. cloudy days with good weather coming ahead. This is exactly like the two probabilities in throwing one coin. Each side gets 50% chance of showing on top every time you throw it.
Compare that to the accuracy of the weather predictions made by the groundhogs event planner. This is not even as good as throwing a coin.
But at the end of the day Groundhog day is a nice tradition that keeps people attached to nature and to mother Earth a way or another, which is a very attractive outcome of the event if nothing else.
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