Today, contributing writer Hillary of Mass Audubon shares some helpful (groundhog, not football) trivia for Sunday:
There's no shortage of nature-related folklore out there, but one that has particularly captured the hearts and minds of kids and adults (thanks or no thanks to Bill Murray) is Groundhog Day. Every year on February 2, people across the country wait attentively to find out if this small furry little animal sees his or her shadow. As legend has it, shadow means six more weeks of winter, but if not, spring is on the way.
So just how did this tradition get started, and what is a groundhog anyway? Amaze friends and family with this groundhog trivia:
- The groundhog belongs to the marmot family, and goes by many names, including woodchuck and whistle pig due to the sound they make through their large teeth to warn one another of danger.
- They nest in burrows that can be up to six feet below ground. These burrows sometimes have as many as five entry points, consisting of an intricate network of tunnels that often total up to 40 feet in length.
- While hibernating, a groundhog’s body temperature drops from 90°F to 40°F, and its heartbeat drops from 100 beats per minute to 4 beats per minute!
- February 2 is the midpoint between the Winter Solstice and the Spring Equinox.
- Upon coming to Pennsylvania in the 1700s, German settlers brought a longstanding tradition known as Candlemas Day, which included a badger checking its shadow to forecast the weather. Since there were no badgers in Pennsylvania at that time, the settlers looked for the next best thing and chose the groundhog.
Celebrating Groundhog Day
While the award for the most famous groundhog in America goes to Punxsutawney Phil from Pennsylvania, here in Massachusetts we have our own celebrity. Ms. G has been “forecasting” the weather at Drumlin Farm since 2008. In fact, there’s a petition and an official bill to make Ms. G the official groundhog of the Commonwealth.
Looking for ways to celebrate? Here are a few:
- Come see Ms. G make her official forecast on February 2 at Drumlin Farm in Lincoln. In addition to her reading, there will be snacks, crafts, stories, and the chance to meet WBZ-TV meteorologist Danielle Niles.
- Ipswich River in Topsfield will also be hosting a Groundhog Day Extravaganza on February 2, including nature hikes, snow sculptures, a groundhog obstacle course, crafts, refreshments, and more.
- Pick up a copy of Groundhog Weather School or Go To Sleep Groundhogs, two fun illustrated books that will entertain and teach at the same time. Both are available at the Audubon Shop at Drumlin Farm.
So what do you think? Shadow or no shadow?
Image credits: Mass Audubon