February 2, 2011
If I were a cartoonist, I’d draw Phil, the famous Punxsutawney Phil, the weather predicting groundhog and he would star in his own animated movie.
More than likely I’d make sure he could sing and dance and of course, he would belt out the tune, “Just me and my shadow” while wearing a black tuxedo with tails and a top hat.
Today is Groundhog Day. Yep, it’s Page 2 in Chapter 2 of my book of Opportunity and I’m going to write about a rodent.
Groundhog Day is a crazy little holiday, stemming from a Pennsylvania German custom, which people celebrate in my home state. The rotund critter called a groundhog (Marmota monax for all you scientific types) is a burrowing animal.
I know this because several of these critters have tunneled their way into our backyard. Of course, they can’t be spotted in winter because they hibernate in their comfy, underground dens during the winter months.
According to German tradition, if the groundhog pops out of his winter home on this day and he sees his shadow, he will dart back into his quarters to hibernate for another six weeks, which means winter isn’t over yet. That’s a pretty safe prediction for ol’ Phil because the official first day of spring is exactly six weeks after February 2. If, however, a cloudy day ensues and his shadow is missing in action, an early spring is supposedly on its way.
A big hoopla of a celebration is held every year in Punxsutawney, PA, a little burg here that was immortalized in the Bill Murray movie, “Groundhog Day.” Supposedly, up to 40,000 people have gathered to commemorate this event there since at least 1886. Back when oldest daughter was still a college student, she and her zany friends decided they would attend this shindig. They stayed up all night there and stood along with all the other thousands of crazy folks outside in frigid weather at the crack of dawn to see if a rodent saw his shadow or not.
I kid you not. Aside from having nearly frost-bitten fingers and toes, I think it was the highlight of oldest daughter’s winter that year. She’s a big one for making a bucket list and working her way through it, so evidently this was on the list just like ringing in the New Year in the middle of New York City’s Times Square (another event she’s lived through to tell the tale). Come to think of it, I think it was the same group of college buddies she experienced that with also! But I digress.
Time to get back to the exciting Groundhog Day festivities on Gobbler’s Knob in Punxsutawney. An “Inner Circle” exists in this little town, a group of local citizens who don top hats and black coats to coax Phil out of his dreamy den every February 2nd. These gentlemen also take care of Phil during the year and plan much of the celebration, which includes everything from an art show to banquets to kids’ events to carriage rides in the park – a plethora of proceedings fit to proclaim Punxsutawney Phil, self-acclaimed “Prognosticator of Prognosticators,” (as it says on his website www.groundhog.org) to be the Prince of Predictions.
Yep, it’s pretty exciting here in Pennsylvania, home of the famous Punxsutawney Phil and six-time Super Bowl Champions (soon to be seven!) Pittsburgh Steelers. And I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else, even if winter does last another six weeks!
See a video about Punxsutawney Phil here: