by Meghan Fitzgerald
"Woah, we’re half way there..." (queue the Bon Jovi)—Groundhog Day marks the halfway point between the start of winter and the first day of spring. And, it is the day that the famous groundhog, Punxsutawney Phil, is watched as he attempts to find his shadow and predict the course of winter. Even if that tradition feels pretty silly, February 2nd is and has long been regarded as a notable day in the life cycle of a year, and one on which people slow down and celebrate. And, we've found, it's a perfect moment to celebrate with kids!
It wasn’t until starting Tinkergarten that we paid much mind to Groundhog Day, but it has become tradition for us to note and even celebrate it in small but sweet ways. It has helped us connect to the natural environment, look forward to the next season and actually savor the winter season that we’re in all the more.
And, we’re not alone on this. Ancient peoples were very attentive to seasons and the position of the sun in the sky, because their livelihood depended on planting and harvesting at the proper times. Festivals were timed around this half way day between winter and spring—some of which gave roots to holidays still celebrated in our culture. From the Groundhog Day (strikingly similar to the ancient Celtic festival of Imbolc still celebrated by many people across the world) to Chinese New Year, people stop to note this important moment—so let’s make the most of it this weekend!
Connects us to nature: First, noticing and naming the transitions between seasons and the half way points like Groundhog Day grounds our kids and us in the rhythm of nature. Many of us no longer rely on timing our harvest to survive, but we still need to connect to the natural world in order to thrive.
Teaches about cycles: The world is full of cycles, and the earlier kids develop a sense of the cycle of a year, the more readily they can understand and look for the cyclical patterns all around them.
Traditions ground kids: Groundhogs are not the only ones who need grounding. Our kids need to develop a sense of belonging to our family and to the Earth. Family traditions give kids just that sense of being part of something. And, when our family traditions include these natural moments, we help solidify kids’ bond with nature.
Connects us to one another: No matter what you believe, no matter where you live and what winter looks and feels like there, you’ll notice the change in light—and you will be sharing that moment with all humans on your block, in your region, and, really, in your hemisphere. These changes offer a shared experience that is hard to come by in a divided world. And, when you can find community with which to celebrate, kids feel as if the whole world values nature—what a hopeful and sustaining worldview!
Hands down, shadow play is our favorite way to celebrate Groundhog Day! Visit tinkergarten.com/groundhog and sign up for easy ways to play with shadows, just like Punxsutawney Phil! Then, tag @tinkergarten and #TGmoments to share images or videos with the community.
Winter bucket list: While you celebrate that we’re closer to spring, flip it around to also recognize that we only have half of winter left. Make a list of the things you’ve loved doing so far this winter. Add things that you haven’t gotten to do yet, but want to do. Make a plan for how you’ll grab every bit of what is special about winter in the coming weeks. We promise, you’ll love the back half of winter all the more for it, and you’ll teach your kids to recognize what is so wonderful about the season.
Pledge to play #OutdoorsAll4: All you need is 2 hours per week to get all of the benefits! If you haven't already, join our OutdoorsAll4 Facebook Group and share inspiration, community support, and inspiration with thousands of Tinkergarten families and educators.
Enjoy half treats: Since we are half way through winter, enjoy half treats! What are they?! Basically, half treats are any treat your family enjoys...cut it in half! You can get even more crafty and Instagram-worthy by doing things like making black-and-white cookies or decorating half of a cake with a wintery scene and the other with spring. Whatever it is, connect sweet celebration with this special moment in the Earth’s year. As long as it’s not too cold, enjoy the treats outdoors.
Make a fire, light some candles or take the moon for a walk: Every day from here, days will grow longer, which means nights will grow shorter. So, our chances to savor cozy moments, leverage lantern light and take wee ones out in the dark of night are also dwindling. Make the most of these still-dark days by grabbing a lantern (here’s how to make one) and going for a night walk. The chance to be out and to see beautiful lights is dazzling to kiddos, and those memories will stick with them always. When you get back in, enjoy a fire, candle light and cozy blankets too.
Groundhog Day and Imbolc: Quirky though it is, our Groundhog Day tradition clearly has roots in celebrations of the midpoint of winter. Many of us are are quite eager to learn from Punxutawney Phil if spring will come quicker this year (although, his predictions have not proven too accurate over time). If you want to celebrate halfway with the groundhog, wake up early, make some yummy muffins and tune in to watch coverage of Punxatawney Phil. He emerges around 7:20-7:25am Eastern. Looking for a nature-based, time-loved celebration tradition? Learn more about the beautiful ways people celebrate Imbolc.
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