My favorite holiday is approaching, but don’t buy a card or bake a cake. Don’t shop for gifts or plan a party, either. Don’t even send me a friendly greeting via email.
Why? Because none of these are required in order to celebrate Groundhog Day. On Groundhog Day, even listening for the news on whether Marmota monax saw his shadow is optional.
Though few groundhogs will have shaken off the slumbering effects of hibernation by February 2nd, a number of North American antagonists will abusively ply the groundhog in wintertime competitions of dubious seasonal precognition. Georgia has their groundhog, General Beauregard Lee; Staten Island, NY has Charles G. Hogg; and many in Ohio look to Buckeye Chuck. Even Canada practices this black magic, through Ontario’s Wiarton Willie.
None of these imposters, however, have been able to hold a candle to the biggest fraud of all, Punxsutawney Phil. The people of Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania make the dubious claim that their groundhog has been at his post since 1887, a feat they say made possible by Phil’s annual ingestion of Groundhog Punch, an elixir that allegedly adds 7 years to Phil’s life (more black magic). They don’t explain why, if it adds 7 years to Phil’s life, an annual dose is required. Maybe he’s come to rely on the stuff.
Punxsutawney Phil’s popularity (if not his credibility) has been enhanced by the fact that his annual forecast is recorded in the Congressional Record. (A practice that hasn't done anything for the legislature's credibility, either.)
There are other parts of the Punxsutawney fable that don’t really add up. I’ve learned that Punxsutawney Phil spends the year (with his mate Phyllis) in the town’s library under the care of volunteers. There, they live on dog food and ice cream, presumably passing the time reading books and periodicals, and making fun of the librarians.
On the eve of the big day, Phil is placed in a heated burrow under a simulated tree stump at Gobblers Knob, where ceremony calls for him to be unceremoniously yanked from his rest at 7:25 a.m. on February 2nd, the precise moment of the Punxsutawney sunrise. This is when Phil supposedly gives his forecast to one of the inner circle of the Groundhog Club, a man dressed in tuxedo and top hat.
Phil’s forecast must be translated from his native tongue, Groundhogese, though it is largely believed that the communication is nothing but a lot of groundhog cussing about being rudely awakened and placed on display before enjoying his customary mocha cappuccino.
I say this must stop! The residents of Punxsutawney Pennsylvania have made Groundhog Day into a multi-day affair that involves such events as an Oreo stacking contest, a Groundhog Jog (little more than a waddle, I suspect) and a Groundhog Beer Dinner—something that may finally explain all of this nonsense.
The beauty of Groundhog Day lies in the fact that the usual demands of a holiday aren’t placed on those of us who choose to observe Groundhog Day in our own carbohydrate-induced hibernation from the comfort of our winter beds.
Let the six weeks begin, and goodnight.