Groundhog Day is a fun way to talk about seasons, nature, animals, and traditions with our families.
Here’s a little groundhog, furry and brown,
He’s popping up to look around.
If he sees his shadow, down he’ll go.
Then six more weeks of winter
– oh, no!
Many European cultures have traditions and superstitions relating to weather & what happens at the start of February. It’s believed the very North American tradition of relying on a groundhog to predict the weather originated with the Pennsylvania Dutch community and was modified from a German tradition involving a badger.
These days, it’s mostly a really fun way to break up the start of the year with a silly celebration!
Each February 2, a series of groundhogs across Canada & the United States poke their noses out of their warm, little burrows, while crowds gather to see what they’ll predict. The theory goes – if the groundhog sees his shadow, we’re in for six more weeks of wintery weather. If there’s no shadow to be seen, then spring might just be here sooner than we think.
WHERE TO FIND A GROUNDHOG PREDICTING SPRING
There are a few go-to groundhogs for the big prediction.
Ontario’s Wiarton Willy also has a pretty big following. You can find out more on the town’s website page dedicated to Wiarton Willie here. (They often offer a live feed of the event; just remember the time zone differences.)
But the earliest predictions happen in Nova Scotia, where Two Rivers Tunnel (who has a full weekend of Winter Frolic fun planned in 2023) and Shubenacadie Sam (who has a lovely picture book published just in time for 2023!) share their Shadow/No Shadow insights at their respective wildlife parks.
New Brunswick tried to start a tradition with Oromocto Ollie a few years ago, but I think the prognosticating paparazzi were too much for him.
But the most famous New Brunswick groundhog appears each year in Shediac, the mascot for the community’s winter carnival, Bonhomme Couèche!
Here are a few groundhog facts, with thanks to the wonderful Wiarton Willie.
Dig, dig, dig! Groundhogs love to use their short, powerful limbs and sharp claws to burrow into the ground.
Double-double. Groundhogs have two coats of fur, one short and one long, to deal with our cold climate.
Watch out! The groundhog has several enemies, including wolves, coyotes, foxes, bears, hawks, owls, and dogs.
Grub time. Groundhogs chow down on wild grass, alfalfa and other vegetation, berries and agricultural crops. They will also eat bugs and insects.
Sleep tight. Non-weather predicting groundhogs are one of the few species that enter into true hibernation, staying dormant from October to March/April.
GROUNDHOG DAY CRAFT IDEAS
You can make a simple drawing like the one in our cover photo, featuring sun, snow, & our Groundhog with his little rhyme.
You might also want to cut out a Groundhog & experiment with shadows!
But our favourite February 2 craft is still our Groundhog puppet, perfect for imaginative play as he pops out of his tunnel.
- paper (two shades of brown and white work great)
- black crayon or maker
- googly eyes (optional)
- popsicle stick
- small tube (toilet paper works great, so does a plastic cup)
- cotton balls/green tissue paper (optional)
- Cut out three heart shapes, one on each colour paper. Two hearts, one white and one brown, should be roughly the same size, while one should be larger. (You’ll have to judge by the size of your paper tube; you want the groundhog to be able to fold in half and slide down into the tube.)
- Glue the two smaller hearts on either end of the larger one, to make ears and teeth.
- Use a marker or crayon to draw on a nose (the heart shape works, or a triangle), a few whiskers, and eyes if you’re not using googly eyes. (If you are, glue them on now. You could also find some black paper or ribbon to use for the nose and whiskers, depending on your stash of goodies and your child’s level of dexterity/interest.)
- Glue the groundhog to the popsicle stick.
- If you have the time/supplies/desire, decorate the top (or all!) of your tube. If you’re optimistic, perhaps you’ll go with some green tissue paper for grass. We chose some cotton balls to look like snow; white paper would also do the trick. (You can also use a styrofoam or plastic cup with a slit cut in the bottom to hold your groundhog; you can decorate the outside just the same.)
- Don’t forget to name your little guy or gal (we created Boundary Creek Bob, Salisbury Sally, and Moncton Marvin) and chime in with your groundhog prediction.
And just in case we need to prepare for a long wait for winter to be over … here are some fun ideas for you!