Saturday, January 29, 2011

Me And My Shadow - It's Groundhog Day!

Wiarton Willy Statue, Ontario Canada

If Candlemas be fair and bright,
Come, Winter, have another flight;

If Candlemas brings clouds and rain,
Go Winter, and come not again.
                                   ~Old English Poem

Groundhog Day is only days away. Here in the USA we celebrate it on February second each  year. While we are in the midst of a snow weary winter here in the Northeast, I like to think that when Groundhog Day is here, spring can't be far behind, whether or not he sees his shadow! Right? Plus, I love special days that give us a reason to to play! 

Here are some resources that will hopefully help you "pop out" of those winter doldrums.

  • Groundhog, woochuck or marmot are common terms for the same animal. Closely related to squirrels, woodchucks actually can climb trees and also swim.
  • The name woodchuck comes from the Indian legend of "Wojak, the groundhog" considered by them to be their ancestral grandfather.
  • In hibernation groundhogs greatly reducing their metabolic rate, and their body temperature drops to just a few degrees above ambient temperature. During hibernation their body temperature drops as low as 39-40 degrees F.
  • Groundhogs eat succulent green plants, such as dandelion greens, clover, plantain and grasses and garden vegetables. Woodchucks binge and purposefully put on weight in the summer. By late August prepare for hibernation in October. By February, hibernating woodchucks have lost as much as half their body weight
  • The first official Groundhog Day was celebrated on February 2, 1886 in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania
  • The groundhog's full name is actually "Punxsutawney Phil, Seer of Seers, Sage of Sages, Prognosticator of Prognosticators and Weather Prophet Extraordinary." It was so proclaimed by the "Punxsutawney Groundhog Club" in 1887
  • The name Punxsutawney comes from the Indian name for the location "ponksad-uteney" which means "the town of the sandflies."
The above information was gathered from these two sites:

  • A similar custom is celebrated among Orthodox Christians in Serbia on February 15 (February 2 according to local Julian calendar) during the feast of celebration of Sretenje or The Meeting of the Lord. It is believed that on this day the bear will awake from winter dormancy, and if in this sleepy and confused state it sees (meets) its own shadow, it will get scared and go back to sleep for an additional 40 days, thus prolonging the winter. If it is sunny on Sretenje, it is the sign that the winter is not over yet. If it is cloudy, it is a good sign that the winter is about to end.
  • In Germany, June 27 (Also known as my birthday. Okay, so that's really not in the Wikipedia article but I was sure you would want to know. :)  is "Siebenschl√§fertag" (Seven Sleepers Day). If it rains that day, the rest of summer is supposedly going to be rainy.
  • In the United Kingdom, July 15 is known as St. Swithun's day. If it rained on that day, it would rain for the next 40 days and nights.


  • Gluscabe Traps the Animals from Earth Care – World Folktales to Talk About by Margaret Read MacDonald.
  • How the Woodchuck Helped Menabozho – Chippewa Legend
  • Origin of the Groundhog Dance -
  • Groundhog Dance – You can find a fun audience participation story about Groundhogs, based on the origin above in Twenty Tellable Tales: audience participation folktales for the beginning storyteller by Margaret Read Macdonald.


Groundhog Meets Grimm – Award winning Storyteller Megan Hicks adds her own flair to these well-known tales. You will definitely come out of hibernation to hear these stories again and again.



FINGERPLAYS AND SONGS Seeking His Shadow: It's Groundhog Day!
This is a blog post I wrote to complement a toddler's lapsit program.


Groundhog Day Books for Preschool or Kindergarten Classes
Suggestions from Suite101  
  • Andrew McGroundhog and His Shady Shadow, Peter Welling
  • Geoffrey Groundhog Predicts the Weather, Bruce Koscielniak
  • Gregory’s Shadow, Don Freeman
  • Gretchen Groundhog, It’s Your Day! Abby Levine
  • The Secret of the First One Up, Iris Hiskey Arno
  • Wake Up, Groundhog! Susan Korman

Karen Chace  2011 ©
This blog post was painstakingly researched and compiled by Karen Chace. Permission for private use is granted. Distribution, either electronically or on paper is prohibited without my expressed written permission. For permission please contact me at Of course, if you wish to link to my newsletter via your website, blog, newsletter, Facebook page or Twitter please feel free to do so; I greatly appreciate your support and personal integrity.


Marilyn Kinsella said...

In reading about the Russian legend associated with GHD, I came to realize what ties there were to many Christian beliefs...40 days, rising from sleep, coming from a cave. Hmmm...interesting. Marilyn

Doria said...

Karen, this is a great issue, loaded with cool stuff I didn't know about groundhogs! One additional point of interest, is that in Europe, the holiday we know in the US as Groundhog is based on a Christian holiday called Candlemas, which in turn is based on a very ancient Pagan celebration known as Imbolc, literally "in the belly".

It is because this holiday comes at the precise midpoint between the Winter Solstice and the Spring Equinox, and thus had special significance for the peoples of Northern Europe. The Earth Goddess was believed to be visibly pregnant with the coming Spring (Spring was "in her belly"), and people looked for signs, such as the lengthening of the days, the lactation of ewes, etc.

In Ireland the Goddess (later saint) Brigid was honored at Imbolc, she who governed the sacred fire of poetry and the forge, who protected newborns and laboring women, and cattle. To this day, Imbolc/Candlemas is celebrated with milk-based treats and fire (candles), and the making of Brigid crosses.

WorldofStories said...

Isn't it also the time when people would leap over fires?

Deena R. Weinstein said...

Jack be nimble.
Jack be quick.
Jack jump over the candlestick.

Perhaps this "Mother Goose" rhyme was originally related to a seasonal tradition!

Deena R. Weinstein