I loved all the winter sports; sledding, ice skating, and making snowmen and snowforts. But something happens when we get older; our bodies can't handle the cold as well, and we hit the ground harder when we slip and fall.
Like many others on February 2, Groundhog Day, I will be hoping and praying the sun isn't shining when Punxatawny Phil, the nation's "official" Groundhog Day mascot, sticks his head out of his burrow. Because if he see his shadow, it means 6 more weeks of winter.
It might be different if winter did what it was supposed to do and serve us 3 months of cold and snow. But the season is fickle; in Iowa and surrounding states, we usually endure close to 6 months of cold and icky weather. However, we truly do appreciate spring when it finally rolls around.
History of Groundhog Day:
According to groundhog.org, the first documented American reference to Groundhog Day can be found in a diary entry, dated February 4, 1841, by Morgantown, Pennsylvania, storekeeper James Morris:
“Last Tuesday, the 2nd, was Candlemas day, the day on which, according to the Germans, the Groundhog peeps out of his winter quarters and if he sees his shadow he pops back for another six weeks nap, but if the day be cloudy he remains out, as the weather is to be moderate.”
The celebration of Groundhog Day began with the Germans, Pennsylvania's earliest settlers. They brought with them the legend of Candlemas Day, which states "For as the sun shines on Candlemas day, so far will the snow swirl in May..." The settlers found that groundhogs were plentiful and were the most intelligent and sensible animal to carry on the legend of Candlemas Day.
- The average groundhog is 20 inches long and normally weighs from 12 to 15 pounds. Punxsutawney Phil weighs about 20 pounds and is 22 inches long. Groundhogs are covered with coarse grayish hairs (fur) tipped with brown or sometimes dull red. They have short ears, a short tail, short legs, and are surprisingly quick. Their jaws are exceptionally strong.
- A groundhog's diet consists of lots of greens, fruits, and vegetables and very little water. Most of their liquids come from dewy leaves.
- A groundhog can whistle when it is alarmed. Groundhogs also whistle in the spring when they begin courting.
- Insects do not bother groundhogs and germs pretty much leave them alone. They are resistant to the plagues that periodically wipe out large numbers of wild animals. One reason for this is their cleanliness.
- Groundhogs are one of the few animals that really hibernate. Hibernation is not just a deep sleep. It is actually a deep coma, where the body temperature drops to a few degrees above freezing, the heart barely beats, the blood scarcely flows, and breathing nearly stops.
- Young Groundhogs are usually born in mid-April or May, and by July they are able to go out on their own. The size of the litter is 4 to 9. A baby groundhog is called a kit or a cub.
For more information about Groundhog Day, visit groundhog.org.