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Teaching Tips

5 Fun Facts About Groundhog Day for Teachers and Students

February 2, 2019

by: Monet Stevens

4 minutes

After a three-month long nap, Punxsutawney Phil is preparing for his big day. It will be his job to break the news about the next six weeks to a crowd of hundreds of anxious onlookers. Phil will hear two firm, familiar knocks at his door and he know it is time.

Three tall men with long black suits and top hats will open his door and gently pull him from his cozy, warm hole in the ground. The crowd will erupt in a wild cheer as the men hold him up for everyone to see.

Moments later, Phil will be placed on the red carpet as the crowd’s cheers dwindle into anticipatory silence. The men will lean in close to see what Phil would do. After a few quick whispers and nods of agreement, a decision will be made.

We are really hoping for an early spring...but Phil will let us know today. 

You may be wondering who Punxsutawney Phil is, but chances are, you already know him. He’s the groundhog who makes a grand entrance out of hibernation every year to tell us whether we will have six more weeks of winter or enter an early spring.

Here are five more fun facts about Ground Hog Day that teachers and their students will enjoy!

  1. The name Punxsutawney Phil was inspired by the city of Punxsutawney in the state of Pennsylvania. Native American settlers gave the town its name which means “town of the sandflies.” The word woodchuck, another name for groundhog, is also derived from the Native American name “wuchak” which is the Algonquin word for woodchuck.
  2. Other states with Groundhog Day celebrations have created unique, localized names such as Staten Island Chuck in New York, Potomac Phil in Washington, D.C., and French Creek Freddie in West Virginia.
  3. Groundhog Day originated from another holiday that dates back as far as the 4th century known as Candlemas. Candlemas was observed throughout Europe on February 2 to mark the midpoint of winter. If the day was sunny and bright, then winter weather was expected to continue, and if the day was cloudy, then celebrants determined that winter weather had come to an end. Candlemas festivities and traditions vary across participating countries, but one of the most common ways to celebrate is by distributing and receiving candles.
  4. Before Groundhogs were used to predict the next few weeks of winter weather, other animals were used based on geographic availability. Former animals include the hedgehog used in England, the marmot used in France, and the badger used in Germany. When German settlers arrived in Punxsutawney, they began to use a more readily available animal, the groundhog.
  5. Every year, Ground Hog Day celebration facilitators make up a fun, rhyming poem to deliver the news on whether they will experience six more weeks of wintery weather or the beginning of spring-like temperatures. Here is an excerpt from last year’s Punxsutawney Groundhog Day celebration proclamation:

    “Up early this morning
    Far from home
    Are you searching for
    the philosopher’s stone? ​

    Well, even my best friends
    They don’t know.
    Is it an early spring
    Or just more snow ​

    My faithful followers,
    your hands (and my paws) are getting cold
    So here is my forecast
    Not lead, but solid gold:

    I see my royal shadow!
    Six more weeks of winter to go!”

This year, have your students make up a story about Punxsutawney Phil! For more writing ideas, try our Building Writers student editions

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