Of all the holidays you celebrate with your family, Groundhog’s Day might not rank right at the top. After all, it’s not like your kids get the day off from school, or has some sort of cute commercial tie-in. But it can be fun to teach your child about Groundhog’s Day, so that they can learn the importance of traditions — and play meteorologist for the day.
So here’s how it works. On February 2, the groundhog will come out of its burrow. If he sees his shadow, then there will be six more weeks of winter. If he doesn’t see his shadow, it’s an indicator that spring is will be early this year. And it’s not any ol’ groundhog that is going to be the weather forecaster. No, on February 2, all eyes are on Punxsutawney Phil, the groundhog that becomes a meteorologist for the day.
This brings up so many questions. How do we know that the groundhog has actually seen his shadow? Did he squeak the information to someone? Well, technically, Punxsutawney Phil doesn’t have to see his shadow; he just has to cast one. In theory, if it’s a cloudy day, the groundhog won’t see its shadow, and spring will arrive sooner. But if it is sunny out (therefore causing shadows), we’ll have a longer winter.
So in theory, if you can see the weather forecast for February 2, do you need the groundhog to tell you if he’s seen his shadow? Not really. But the idea of Groundhog’s Day is a much-beloved Pennsylvania Dutch tradition of the furry little critter climbing out of its home to let us know if spring is about to be sprung. And if you’ve already had enough of getting all the snow gear on your kids as they go off to school, you might welcome any signs of an early spring — even from a groundhog.
This might make you wonder how accurate Punxsutawney Phil’s prowess is in predicting the arrival of spring. Eh, it’s not as good as you might think. He’s only been able to correctly forecast the weather only about 39% of the time, EarthSky.org reported. In that case, you’d be better off making a guess on your own, since you’d have a 50/50 chance of being right.
Still, Groundhog’s Day (and Punxsutawney Phil) is a much-beloved tradition that allows people (and groundhogs!) to guesstimate if we’re going to have spring come sooner. To be on the safe side, don’t pack away your kid’s winter snowsuit and boots based on a groundhog’s guess about the weather…just in case.