Groundhog Day: The Quintessential Holiday

GroundhogGroundhog Day . . .  is a day celebrated on February 2. According to folklore, if it is cloudy when a groundhog emerges from its burrow on this day, then spring will come early; if it is sunny, the groundhog will supposedly see its shadow and retreat back into its burrow, and the winter weather will persist for six more weeks.


We have made it through the holidays—relatives endured, credit cards maxed out, waistlines larded with latkes, and other wonders of the season.  We have turned the page on the old year, ushering in the new with high hope and resolve.

But now that we’ve paid that first installment on Visa and skipped a session or two at the gym (seriously, setting the alarm a half hour early–what were we thinking?), it’s time to get real.

That’s why I propose elevating Groundhog Day, which best represents who we are as a people, to the holiday status it deserves. Sure, the Fourth of July honors our penchant for blowing things up. And Thanksgiving is a strong contender with its non-denominational emphasis on food. But that gratitude thing can be a deal breaker for some.

Groundhog Day, on the other hand, is for everyone—those who are pulled kicking and screaming into the sunlight only to go back to bed, and those who find a silver lining in a cloudy day.

And that’s just the tradition built around a reluctant rodent prognosticator! The other reason why February 2 should be our national holiday is captured by the 1993 film, Groundhog Day, in which Bill Murray hits the alarm each morning only to find he is trapped in the same dreary day as before.

Sound familiar?

Yet Groundhog Day goes on to transform the Myth of Sisyphus into an embodiment of that all-American saying, “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.” (Freudians, those jaded Old Worlders, call it repetition compulsion.)

The definition of insanity may be repeating the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. But these do-overs also give us a chance to get it right. Bill Murray, by dint of repetition and infinitesimal change, emerges from the winter of his discontent into the sunny skies of Andie MacDowell’s favor. Surely that is a model worth celebrating.

I forget what happens to the groundhog. Probably it bites somebody and goes back to sleep. Which is another holiday tradition we can all embrace.



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