February 2nd is our most whimsical “holiday,” the day when the legendary groundhog’s actions are said to forecast the weather. “Six more weeks of winter” was a given in North Dakota where I grew up. Perhaps the rodent returned to his hole not because he was frightened by his shadow, but because he was freezing his tuchus off. Here in Arizona, the groundhog is brave. He orders himself a margarita and lounges around by the pool. Thus our dreams of a long cool winter are always in vain.
Obligatory historical reference: the famous Groundhog Day celebration in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, began way back in 1886. Since 1993, however, it’s never been the same, due to a hit movie with Bill Murray and Andie MacDowell.
Ground Hog Day is a genuine American tradition, stemming from a Pennsylvania Dutch superstition that a burrowing animal – originally a badger – could foretell the weather. But why February 2nd, you may ask? It happens to be Candlemas, a Roman Catholic festival that occurs exactly 40 days after Christmas. It was considered the official end of the Christmas season. That sounds rather long, but consider that stores these days put up their Christmas decorations immediately after Halloween.
The best thing about this day, of course, the movie Groundhog Day which was directed by Harold Ramis of Ghostbusters fame. The movie review site Rotten Tomatoes gives up sky high scores from both critics and audiences. If you’re one of the ten people who haven’t seen it, it features Bill Murray as boorish weatherman Phil Connors, who is visiting Punxsutawney for the celebration. For some mysterious reason, he becomes stuck in a time loop, living the day over and over again. Of course, it’s not exactly the same, as he can remember the previous occurrences, and is able to learn and grow by experiencing the day in every possible fashion. Even death can’t get him out of the loop, as he awakens the next morning regardless. Only one thing – winning the affections of lovely news producer Rita Hanson (played by Andie MacDowell) – can release him from the cycle. If only real life provided us with limitless do-overs until we got it right!
As it’s been 25 years I expect some kind of commemoration. I expect to see it over and over and over again. Happy Groundhog day, everyone!