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Groundhog’s Day is a silly, sad excuse for a holiday. I don’t even get the day off work unless I fake illness. The pinnacle of the holiday is the movie. I remember when Groundhog’s Day used to mean something. They used to take it out, and they used to eat it.
Imbolc was the ancient pagan feast that fell halfway between the Winter Solstice and the Vernal Equinox—or the 2nd of February. The superstition of that holiday was that if the weather was fair and agreeable on Imbloc then the remainder of the winter would be nasty and stormy. Why did they believe this? Maybe they were right, but they failed to keep detailed meteorological records for posterity.
As pagandom descended, and Christiandom took hold, those weather superstitions were translated into into a similar but differently named holiday called Candlemass. In the spirit of making the pagan holiday less pagan they put a candle in every window, but held to the good weather is a bad omen clause; but they reduced the penalty from “the rest of winter” to six weeks.
Then in the 1700s some of the Europeans who celebrated Candlemass relocated to the New World. As they caretakers of this tradition spread out over the continent they came across Native Americans— in the less Politically Correct vernacular, the people who already lived there, specifically, the Delaware Indians. They had, and apparently shared, a belief that the Groundhog was an ancestor of humans, but of course, they didn’t have any notarized family trees.
The two traditions melded, making it one of if the Groundhog observed a nice sunny day—thus his shadow—he invoked the curse of a longer winter.
The first official Groundhog’s Day was on 2-Feb-1886 in the teeming metropolis of Punxsutawney, Philadelphia Pennsylvania. They named their chosen seer after King Phillip, but since it’s silly to say “King Phillip of Pennsylvania” they just stuck him with “Punxsutawney Phil”.
According to the official website, Phil is on his 120th year working, and still going strong. He has a special elixir that keeps him young and vital (you’d think he’d submit to the M-Prize), and speaks groundhogeese … a very eclectic tongue shared by only by the President of the Inner Circle.
So again we see that all the good holidays stem from the pagans … except Independence Day, and maybe St Patrick’s Day. Make good use of your non-day-off holiday, watch a good flick, join the Punxsutawney Phil Fan Club, and sit down with your family to a delicious groundhog feast.