Monday, January 30, 2012

Groundhog Day: Integrating Holidays into Lesson Plans

by Sarah Svatos

Teacher Pay Teacher Store Front:

“Why do we celebrate a groundhog coming out of a hole?”

At the beginning of every school year, my students read an article titled, “Holidays in the Hispanic World.” In a foreign language classroom, it’s common, and even expected, to incorporate in-depth studies of holidays and to dig into histories behind them.

After students read the article on holidays, they are asked to respond to two questions: “Did you find any of the holidays you just read about interesting enough to want to celebrate them?” and “Think of a holiday we celebrate here in the United States. Is there anything about it that people from foreign countries might find strange or unusual?” Students often respond with questions of their own: “What in the world does a bunny have to do with Easter? I don’t think anyone understands that” or “I think people would find St. Patrick’s Day really weird. I mean, how do you explain dressing in green, drinking green beer, and stuff like that?”

Responses such as these indicate students often have no understanding of the histories behind commonly celebrated American holidays. The histories of world holidays are vast and interesting! Our students gain so much cultural knowledge by researching the meanings behind commonly celebrated holidays.

So, why do we celebrate a groundhog coming out of a hole?

This is the time of year for the turning point in weather cycles of our planet. People all over the world note this time of year as special, and they have created holidays around it. The Celts celebrate this special part of the year on February 2nd with a holiday called “Imbolc,” which also includes weather prognostications. In ancient European folklore, a sacred badger or bear predicted the weather. Christians also celebrate Candlemas Day on February 2nd, and there is an old English song that goes, “If Candlemas be fair and bright, come Winter, have another flight.” Yet, why do Americans celebrate this holiday?

The hub of activity on Groundhog Day in America is in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. This region of the state was originally settled by German immigrants, and it is believed they carried with them to America the European folklore of the sacred badger, who predicted the weather at this time of year.

Holidays are never as straight-forward as they might seem to a child, or even to adults. Holidays evolve, and holidays in the United States have evolutionary history because of our multicultural immigration--what a wonderful thing to celebrate!

Related Teachers Pay Teachers Products:
Groundhog Day Printables   FREE!
Groundhog Day Word Search  FREE!
Build a Groundhog  $1.00
Groundhog Day Elementary Activities: Coloring, Card & Letter Writing  $1.00
It's Groundhog Day--A Shared Reading Book  $1.50
Groundhog Day Math Activities for Kindergarten $2.00
Groundhog Day Literacy Activities for Kindergarten  $2.00
Groundhog Day Reading Activity Packet for Middle School  $2.25
Groundhog Day Smartboard Activities  $2.99
3 Groundhog Day Activities: Reading, Graphing, ABC Order  $3.00


  1. Wow! Thanks for sharing these great activities :) I can't wait to check them out. Have a great night!

    Lisa :) (new follower)
    Made In The Shade In Second Grade

  2. Thank you for the new links. I've been on the hunt for new ideas to use this year.

    I tagged you on my blog today as I blogger I've been admiring for a while now. I love the group effort here!



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