This week we celebrate Groundhog Day, further proof that joyous festivals and important holidays on the official calendar do not necessarily have to be based — and I’m trying to be generous here — on anything SANE.
Let’s summarize the whole concept of Groundhog Day: the world waits breathlessly for a nondescript rodent in a nondescript western Pennsylvania town to forecast the weather six weeks from now, even though PhDs in meteorology, with millions of dollars of high-tech electronic equipment, cannot accurately forecast the weather six hours from now. Sounds logical to me.
Every February 2nd the sleepy little town of Punxsutawney, PA, (population 6,800) swells with 30,000 visitors — 29,000 of whom work for TV crews and spend their entire time doing “breaking news” broadcasts, most of which focus on the massive number of media people who have descended on the sleepy little town. This is because the TV news creed, found in the Gospel of Nielson 3:16, is “For where two or three satellite trucks are gathered together, there is ‘breaking news’ in their midst.”
Being somewhat curious about the origins of Groundhog Day, I did some extensive research on the Internet. Here are some of my findings:
- The Internet should be outlawed. Anything that allows a person to waste three hours looking up Groundhog Day trivia is simply horrible.
- Forecasting the end of winter is an old Scottish tradition, summed up in the following old Scottish rhyme: “If Candlemas day be dry and fair / The half o’winter to come and mair / If Candlemas day be wet and foul / The half of winter’s gone at Yule.”
- Candlemas is a church feast, February 2nd, a day on which candles for sacred use are blessed.
- “Mair” is an old Scottish word meaning “the only thing I could think of that rhymes with fair.”
- No matter how thick a Scottish accent you use, “foul” and “Yule” will never rhyme. (Since they were making up words anyway, one wonders why they didn’t just go with “yowl.”)
- “Punxsutawney” is from the Indian words punx, meaning “sleepy little town,” and sutawney, meaning “where TV trucks can easily uplink to the satellite.”
- The first people in the U.S. to make predictions about the weather on February 2nd were German immigrants in Pennsylvania.
- A clairvoyant rodent became part of the holiday tradition after one German immigrant polished off two bottles of schnapps, and then said, “Dit you hear zat, Helga? Ze grundhock vuz talkink to me!”
- Punxsutawney Phil became the official Groundhog Day groundhog after his cousin, Punxsutawney Fred, was caught in an FBI sting and indicted on bribery charges.
- There are literally hundreds of websites devoted solely to Groundhog Day (yet more proof the Internet is horrible), including groundhog.org, Punxsutawney.com, and PunxsutawneyPhil.com. One online shopping site, groundhogstuff.com, offers this reminder: “Start your holiday shopping here!”
- There are people in this country who actually do their holiday shopping at a site called “groundhogstuff.com.”
- There are people in this country who actually think “holiday shopping” is something you do in anticipation of February 2nd rather than December 25th. (Strong evidence that schnapps is still being abused in western Pennsylvania.)
In summary, the celebration of Groundhog Day teaches us some important lessons: (1) meteorologists are no smarter than rodents; (2) no matter what Phil forecasts this week, it is guaranteed to be every media outlet’s “breaking news” lead story — unless, of course, something MORE important occurs, such as Kim Kardashian getting a zit; and (3) most American citizens, although not quite as smart as meteorologists, need to GET A LIFE! (And this goes double for anyone who wastes three hours searching Groundhog Day websites!)