If you live in colder climates, January is a time when you are probably hoping for a change in the weather. All around the world, people have ways of anticipating and predicting the seasonal shifts that are so important to their lives. Most of these practices involve observing nature and a respectful relationship with animals. In my home state of Pennsylvania in the United States the rites and rituals of predicting the Spring center around a fat little groundhog named “Phil”.
In the town of Punxatawny, Pennsylvania, “Phil” the groundhog is a big celebrity and even has quite a few helpers on February 2nd when the big day arrives. If it’s cloudy, Spring is said to come early. If it’s clear and Phil sees it’s shadow – then 6 more weeks of cold weather for us all! In this area these traditions began with the Pennsylvania Dutch and they even created special “Groundhog Lodges” where there is food, entertainment and skits or plays at this time of year. All who attend must speak only in Pennsylvania Dutch dialect or they are fined a nickel, a dime or a quarter for speaking English! Whether your’re a farmer wondering when to plant or just someone who can’t wait for warmer weather, this can be a great time of year to celebrate our little furry friends and consider why animals are important to our lives.
I spent many of my teenage years in a Native American culture where animals are highly respected. For us, the web of life is woven not just for human beings but by every one of the amazing creatures – large and small – put here to dwell together. Whether it’s a prediction of spring by a hibernating creature or the companionship a favorite dog, cat or bird, wool from sheep or eggs or meat from other animals, it’s clear that animals provide so much for us. With that in mind, it is always a good time to stop and be grateful for how we are all interconnected and how much animals enrich our lives.
Would you like to learn more about groundhogs and Groundhogs Day? Check out some of the books I’ve listed below. Some are rather factual and others are a bit more creative – like one about a groundhog starting a weather school and another where the groundhog can’t sleep when he needs to and can’t get up when he should – very funny! And if you’ve ever wondered how much wood a woodchuck could really chuck, you can check out a tongue-twister song (The Groundhog’s Day Song) that I wrote because my family also wondered how much ground a groundhog could hog, if a groundhog could hog ground! We also considered how much sap a sapsucker could suck if a sapsucker could suck sap. (A sapsucker is a rather large bird in the woodpecker family that manages to make huge holes in lots of our pine trees!) And if you’re thinking about animals, you can also listen to a song I wrote with my daughter when she was 9. It was about riding on a horse and listening to the wisdom that it can share with us. I was very grateful to record this song with a local Native American Clan mother. The Lenape (or Leni Lenape) are the Native Americans that originated in the area of Pennsylvania where I now live.
And what about activities? Pennsylvania Dutch lodges always have Groundhog’s Day skits. Could you come up with your own skit for this special occasion? Could your kids or your class write and perform one? You could also make sock puppets or paper pop-up puppets – great fun for acting out whether or not the groundhog will see his shadow from your own personal perspective. You can find the pop-up puppet activity on my monthly song page. And if you’re reading this after that page has changed, simply e-mail me (email@example.com) and I will send the activities out to you right away!
In any event, I hope you have an outstanding Groundhog’s Day! Whether or not Phil sees his shadow on February 2nd at Gobbler’s Knob in the wonderful little town of Punxatawny, Pennsylvania; I will be keeping my fingers crossed that we all get to enjoy an early Spring!
Award-winning children’s performer, DARIA (Daria Marmaluk-Hajioannou) has five cd’s that have won national honors. She has the most awesome job of traveling the world to sing for kids and peace. Her website; located at dariamusic.com, was given a 2009 Parents Choice Award for its musical and cultural content.
Books About Groundhog’s Day
Gail Gibbons (author)
– Wonderful fun and great facts about groundhogs and the Groundhog’s Day celebration.
The Groundhog Day Book of Facts and Fun
Wendie C. Old (Author)
Paige Billin-Frye (Illustrator)
– A sampler of groundhog facts and a good description of the special day in Punxatawny, PA.
Go To Sleep, Groundhog!
by Judy Cox
Paul Meisel (Illustrator)
– A groundhog can’t seem to fall asleep when it’s time to hibernate and has a tough time getting up when his own special holiday comes. Lovely illustrations.
Ten Grouchy Groundhogs
Kathryn Heling (Author)
Deborah Hembrook (Author)
– A cute counting book for young children with some good groundhog facts sprinkled in!
Groundhog Gets a Say
Pamela Curtis Swallow (Author)
Denise Brunkus (Illustrator)
– A groundhog thinks his holiday should last more then one day. His animal friends help make his case for the world to know more about groundhogs.
Groundhog Weather School
Joan Holub Joan Holub (Author)
Kristin Sorra (Illustrator)
– A groundhog is encouraged to open a weather school everyone gets to learn more about hibernation, groundhogs and the holiday.