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Groundhog Day History and Facts for Kids


Groundhog Day is a day celebrated on February 2. According to folklore, if it is cloudy when a groundhog emerges from its burrow on this day, then spring will come early; if it is sunny, the groundhog will supposedly see its shadow and retreat back into its burrow, and the winter weather will continue for six more weeks.

  • Modern customs of the holiday involve celebrations where early morning festivals are held to watch the groundhog emerging from its burrow.
  • In southeastern Pennsylvania, Groundhog Lodges celebrate the holiday with fersommlinge, social events in which food is served, speeches are made, and one or more g’spiel (plays or skits) are performed for entertainment.
  • The Pennsylvania German dialect is the only language spoken at the event, and those who speak English pay a penalty, usually in the form of a nickel, dime, or quarter per word spoken, with the money put into a bowl in the center of the table.
  • Groundhog Day, already a widely recognized and popular tradition, received widespread attention as a result of the 1993 film Groundhog Day, which was set in Punxsutawney, PA (though filmed primarily in Woodstock, IL) and portrayed Punxsutawney Phil.
  • The celebration, which began as a Pennsylvania German custom in southeastern and central Pennsylvania in the 18th and 19th centuries, has its origins in ancient European weather lore, wherein a badger or sacred bear is the prognosticator as opposed to a groundhog.
  • It also bears similarities to the Pagan festival of Imbolc, the seasonal turning point of the Celtic calendar, which is celebrated on February 1 and also involves weather prognostication and to St. Swithun’s Day in July.
  • The first documented American reference to Groundhog Day can be found in a diary entry, dated February 4, 1841, of Morgantown, Pennsylvania, storekeeper James Morris: In Scotland, the poem: An English poem: In western countries in the Northern Hemisphere, the official first day of spring is almost seven weeks (46–48 days) after Groundhog Day, on March 20 or March 21.
  • The custom could have been a folk embodiment of the confusion created by the collision of two calendrical systems.
  • Some ancient traditions marked the change of season at cross-quarter days such as Imbolc when daylight first makes significant progress against the night.
  • Other celebrations of note in Pennsylvania take place in Quarryville in Lancaster County, the Anthracite Region of Schuylkill County, the Sinnamahoning Valley and Bucks County.
  • According to Groundhog Day organizers, the rodents’ forecasts are accurate 75% to 90% of the time.
  • According to the StormFax Weather Almanac and records kept since 1887, Punxsutawney Phil’s weather predictions have been correct 39% of the time.