February 2 is one of the stranger American holidays. Thousands of people will gather in a park before dawn on a frigid February morning in a small Pennsylvania town to wait for a guy in a top hat and tuxedo to hold a groundhog named Punxsutawney Phil over his head.
If Phil sees his shadow, we'll have six more weeks of wintry weather. If he doesn't, we'll have an early spring. Don't let this determine whether or not you wear a coat, though. When you check Phil's predictions against actual weather outcomes since 1969, his overall accuracy rate is only about 36%.
The tradition of Groundhog Day began in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, in 1887, but its origins date back to an early Christian tradition in Europe called Candlemas. The leaders in the church would bless and distribute candles needed in homes for winter. The number of candles distributed was thought to indicate how long and cold the winter would be.
In Germany, a hedgehog was added to the mix. If the hedgehog cast a shadow on Candlemas Day, it would mean long weeks of cold and snow ahead.
Whether you want more winter or are ready for spring to arrive, here are five fun ways to help you celebrate Groundhog Day!
1. Start with a giggle.
Every day should start with a good laugh! Here's one we think Phil would love!
Q. What do you call a royal groundhog?
A. A crowned hog!
2. Add a cup of Phil's Winter Warmup Hot Cocoa.
The Aztecs invented a spicy chocolate drink called xocoatl. Instead of sweetening their chocolate with sugar, they added chilies for a spicy but bitter drink. We think you can have both!
A cup of Phil's Winter Warmup Hot Cocoa will get you feeling toasty from the inside out! It's sweet and creamy with a subtle kick to it thanks to spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, chili powder, and just a pinch of cayenne pepper. Get the full recipe here.
3. Bring on a snow day.
If your kids are anything like mine, they are always hoping for a snow day! Anytime the possibility of a snow day was even mentioned at school, they made sure to perform their snow day ritual at bedtime: flush three ice cubes, put their pajamas on inside out, and sleep with a spoon under their pillow.
I'm not saying my kids can control the weather — but I'm not saying they can't, either. Their ritual has about a 73% success rate! Maybe they could have gotten up to a 100% rate if they had added a few more pieces to it!
4. Watch a movie.
Thanks to the 1993 movie starring Bill Murray, the phrase "Groundhog Day" isn't just about February 2. It's often used to express a state of mind, usually feeling like you are stuck in a rut and just repeating the same day over and over.
Although Groundhog Day is the best-known movie about a time loop (and probably the funniest), we found a few others that your family might enjoy.
Click the linked movie titles to borrow them from the Douglas County Libraries:
- Groundhog Day (PG)
- Source Code (PG-13)
- Before I Fall (PG-13)
- The Map of Tiny Perfect Things (PG-13)
- Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children (PG-13)
5. Learn to predict the weather better than Phil.
With Colorado's crazy weather patterns, it might be fun for you and your kids to learn more about it. Here are a few kid-focused weather websites that may be just as fascinating for adults:
- SciJinks is NASA and NOAA's website for kids
- SkySci for Kids was designed by the National Center for Atmospheric Research
- Weather Wiz Kids by meteorologist Crystal Wicker
For an in-person experience, visit the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) Mesa Lab in Boulder. It's free to visit and open to the public seven days a week.
Watch this video about the science behind meteorology, including why this field is often inaccurate.