Archived Story

Groundhog Day makes little sense to me

Published 8:00am Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Traditions are an important part of who we are as humans. Whether the traditions are at the national, state, local or family level, they offer us a sense of comfort with their familiarity.

These traditions can come in many different forms and can signify a variety of things.

The drop of the ball in Times Square in New York City on New Year’s represents change.

The Iron Bowl represents the quest for bragging rights over friends and coworkers for the next 365 days.

There is one tradition though that I do not understand — today, Groundhog Day.

I understand the belief that if the groundhog sees his shadow there will be six more weeks of winter and I understand how this day evolved from the old Christian tradition of Candlemas Day.

What I don’t understand is why this has grown into such a popular tradition.

Several hundred years ago people did not have the advanced scientific research we have today, so I can appreciate their need to find a way to decide how much longer winter would last.

It started with candles being handed out by the church — although I don’t know exactly how that worked — before the Germans decided to use hedgehogs with the now familiar shadow concept. When Germans began moving to America, they switched to groundhogs, which were much more abundant in Pennsylvania.

Roll ahead a couple of hundred years and we have better knowledge of the Earth’s movement around the sun, can predict weather patterns and can usually have a relatively accurate estimation of when cold weather will begin and when it will give way to higher temperatures.

So why do so many of us still choose to allow a flea-bitten, rabies infested rodent decide how much longer winter will last?

There are so many questions to be asked.

How do we know if the groundhog actually saw his shadow? Maybe groundhogs are incapable of seeing their own shadows.

How do we know he isn’t coming out of his hole to take a bathroom break? He has been sleeping for a couple of months, surely his bodily functions have caught up with him — I know I usually need a trip to the bathroom every morning. I would burst if I had to hold it for a few months.

Why is the groundhog always a “he”? Are female groundhogs incapable of predicting weather? If female groundhogs can predict winter, why hasn’t a feminist organization shown up at the annual event in Punxsutawney, Pa. to educate people about the plight of groundhogette meteorologists throughout this nation?

Can this concept be applied to other holidays? Personally I think it would be interesting if following the ball drop in Times Square somebody asks Dick Clark if he sees his shadow. If he does we get a year of economic recovery, if not, the recession continues.

Personally, I am hoping the flea-bitten, rabies infested rodent does not see his shadow — that is if he, or she, is capable of seeing it — because I am tired of winter.

I much prefer the warmer weather beginning in April. I love having time to enjoy the great outdoors before the oppressive heat waves begin showing up in July and August.

That is when we need Groundhog Day. If the furry rodent heads back into his hole in the ground it would be a sign for us to stay inside for six more weeks enjoying the comforts of central air conditioning.

That makes sense to me.

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