Does Anyone Outside of Pennsylvania Care About Groundhog Day?

Does Anyone Outside of Pennsylvania Care About Groundhog Day?

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  1. It wouldn’t surprise me at all if everything most immigrants know about Groundhog Day was learned from the Bill Murray movie of the same name (which, incidentally, is worth watching if you haven’t seen it already).  Those of us born in this country are—for some reason—taught about Groundhog Day in elementary school.  In fact, when I was in 5th grade, I undoubtedly knew more about Groundhog Day than I did about Independence Day, Memorial Day and Veterans Day combined (and at least these other three mean something).  On February 2 each year, the mayor of Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, yanks a giant rat out of a hollow log, waves it around in front of an inexplicably excited crowd (all shivering, because it’s still winter and they are in Pennsylvania, where winters mean more than having to throw a sweater on before strolling to the local market; God, I love living in Southern California… at least during wintertime), and then they wait with baited breath to see if Punxsutawney Phil (the giant rat) sees his own shadow.  If he does, then winter goes on; if he doesn’t, then winter will end early… or so the myth goes.  After that, they shove the giant rat back into its hole, where it will stay until removed by its caretakers (and where it was placed before the festivities began).

    All of this activity and pageantry begs the question: why bother?  Surely, whether a shadow is seen or not does not determine the length of winter, at least not reliably.  But fear not; I have an answer to this riddle.

    As usual, the answer is money.  For reasons I cannot fathom, the press—and even tourists—flock to Punxsutawney every February for this ridiculous and meaningless event.  All of those people have to rent hotel, motel and bed and breakfast rooms; they have to eat three meals a day, and considering that this whole Groundhog Day shindig only lasts a couple of hours, they have to find other entertainment to fill in their dreary time in this little town that has but one claim to fame.

    Don’t get me wrong; Punxsutawney is a rather attractive town, surrounded by forest and farmland.  While western Pennsylvania is not mountainous as is the east side of the state, extensive tracts of woodland makes it appealing nevertheless.  There are small lakes, creeks and rivers all over the place, for those who enjoy water recreation—but who wants to go waterskiing, jet skiing, kayaking or even fishing when the temperature is hovering around 0 degrees Fahrenheit?  If they held Groundhog Day in early summer, people would at least be able to enjoy the countryside.  Of course, they would have to think up some new publicity angle.  Maybe they can haul old Punxsutawney Phil out of his hole in mid-June, give him a choice between granola and rotting liver to eat, and then base the World Series outcome on which one Phil chooses (naturally, the granola would represent the National League, as the Phillies and the Pirates are both NL teams). 

    At least that would have some slight significance, even if it was pure crap.

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