News Display: First Groundhog Day
It was the second morning of February. The woods and the fields were covered with snow. The wind blew from a cold gray sky. “This is the day!” said a voice from under the ground. “This is the day I make my prediction!…” — Crockett Johnson, Will Spring Be Early or Will Spring Be Late? (New York: Thomas Y. Crowell, c1959, pp. 7-8)
Actually, it is the second Saturday morning in August. The grass and trees are cloaked in green, to the tune of wind wafting over the Long Island Sound. Oblivious to the resident brown bunny, half a dozen groundhogs share the space, as they forage for food on the steep slope leading down to the rocky beach. We see them digging for clovers — too cute for words, as they frolic about in the sun and shade, a patchwork of shapes outside our kitchen window. Whether Spring was early, or late, is hard to remember, but for sure the groundhog was expected to stay out only when he had good news. And he, along with his friends, were now out for the summer.
Gobbler’s Knob in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania is the setting for the first Ground Hog Day Celebration. On February 2, 1887, Phil, the groundhog, amidst much merrymaking, was reported to have seen his shadow, prompting the forecast for a “long winter”. In 2016, many generations of Phil, later, it is for “early spring.” What will 2017 hold?
Legend has it that, if a groundhog comes out of its hole and sees its shadow on February 2, there will be six more weeks of winter. If there is no shadow, then we will have an early Spring. But, do you know about the history of the celebration, whose roots date back to early Christian times, with the distribution and use of candles determining the length of winter? That hedgehogs were later used as a means for the Germans to predict the season? Hedgehogs are akin to groundhogs, otherwise known as woodchucks or whistle pigs (same family as squirrels).
Enjoy the curated display of articles that illuminated the history of Groundhog Day and be on the lookout in your neighborhood for those signs of an early Spring or a long winter…
The following articles are selected from Proquest Historical Newspapers, which informs and inspires classroom teaching and learning.
- To the editor of The American. (1889, Feb 07). Answers for the Anxious: Ground-Hog Day. Daily American (1875-1894)
- Groundhog Day Leaves Libraries, Reporter Baffled. (1940, Feb 03). The Washington Post (1923-1954)
- Under the Weather Groundhog Day. (1951, Feb 02). Daily Boston Globe (1928-1960)
- Mann, R. (1958, Feb 02). It’s Groundhog Day. Chicago Daily Tribune (1923-1963)
- Rehert, I. B. (1968, Feb 03). Brief History of a Superstition. The Sun (1837-1991)
- Isaacs, S. (1974, Jan 27). Animal Crackers. Newsday (1940-1988)
- Happy Marmota Monax Day. (1979, Feb 02). The Washington Post (1974-Current File)
- Groundhog Day Signals. (1997, Feb 01). The Irish Times (1921-Current File)
- Rehert, I. (1987, Feb 02). Phil’s Day: World Awaits Groundhog’s Word. The Sun (1837-1991)
- Guica, L. (1988, Jan 27). Spicing Up: Groundhog Day. The Hartford Courant (1923-1991)
- Hirsch, L. (1991, Dec 30). Artist Illustrates Book on Groundhog ‘Phil’. The Hartford Courant (1923-1991)
- Check out other works by Crocket Johnson, author of the popular comic strip Barnaby and the Harold series, Harold and the Purple Crayon.
- See The Museum of Natural History’s entry on the Groundhog, on permanent display in the Bernard Family Hall of North American Mammals.
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