Groundhog Day Activities
I’m born and raised in Pennsylvania, so maybe I have a skewed vision of Groundhog Day. I mean the day, not the movie. Groundhog Day is a big deal here, as the whole world looks to the little town of Punxsutawney PA every February 2. Punxsutawney Phil has been predicting the weather for decades. And, we have his brother Gus, who is a famous TV commercial actor.
The concept of acknowledging Groundhog Day has Pennsylvania Dutch origins. The PA Dutch are not really Dutch, either. They have German ancestry. Germany, or “Deutschland” became abbreviated to Dutch, and led to the PA Germans being referred to as the PA Dutch.
Still, it’s a fun and silly activity to think that a groundhog can predict the weather.
When is Groundhog Day?
The earliest mention of Groundhog Day is an entry on February 2, 1840. This occurred in Morgantown, PA which is about a half-hour from where I live. That region is known for having a large PA Dutch presence, as well as many Amish and Mennonites. I love going up that way for Amish produce auctions.
The observance of Groundhog Day in the United States first occurred in Pennsylvania Dutch communities in Pennsylvania, according to known records.
That’s why Groundhog Day is a big deal here. But yes, we still have school that day.
Groundhog Day Predictions
Many are unclear as to how Groundhog Day is supposed to work. First, you have to be around a groundhog and his den/burrow at sunrise. That is why you see the TV crews up super early.
The Pennsylvania Dutch superstition states:
- if the groundhog comes out of its burrow on this day and sees its shadow, it will retreat to its den and winter will persist for six more weeks; if it is sunny that morning–a longer winter
- if it does not see its shadow, spring will arrive early; if it is cloudy that morning–an early spring
How Accurate is Groundhog Day?
Of course, we all know that this is just for fun. But, how accurate is Punxsutawney Phil? Can he really predict the weather? I mean, at least here in PA we have lots of crazy folklore and superstitions about caterpillars, fat squirrels and the weather, just to name a few.
One thing that has never made sense to me–aren’t both predictions really the same? If he sees his shadow, 6 more weeks of winter. February 2 plus 6 weeks=about March 16 or so.
The first day of spring is March 20. So isn’t he going to be right? If you use the ‘early spring’ prediction, it really stays the same.
Groundhog Day Statistics
And, statistics will vary based on where you live. Here in Pennsylvania, we have 4 defined separate seasons. Albeit, climate change is making them less distinct. It’s in the 60s this week as I write this post, and it’s supposed to be winter. But I digress.
But, let’s talk about Punxsutawney Phil and how accurate he is.
Punxsutawney Phil and his accuracy are monitored by the Pennsylvania’s Groundhog Club, which also cares for the animal.
Phil has predicted 103 forecasts for winter and just 17 for an early spring. That means when he woke up and crawled out, it was sunny out 103 of those times. I guess facts are facts, but having a clear day in western PA that many times sounds doubtful to me. Winters here are typically cold and gray.
That being said, the National Geographic Society reports that Punxsutawney Phil is correct only 28% of the time. I was unable to find how they define success, or what “an early spring” even means. We have had March days in the 80s here (again, climate change!) but it doesn’t stick around. It’s always just an anomaly that doesn’t last more than a day or two.
Other Groundhog Predictions- Canada
Canada has groundhogs too. Most notably, Shubenacadie Sam from Ontario and Wiarton Willy from Ontario.
Groundhog Day Activities
Here are the free Groundhog Day activities. These are adaptable for any age group. It’s not a holiday, after all, that needs a lot of time or discussion. You can review the history, the accuracy and make predictions. These worksheets might be fun to put on a bulletin board somewhere, or keep for 6 weeks to see if they are accurate.Groundhog-Day-Printables-5
Have fun, and Happy Groundhog Day!