Wednesday, February 1, 2012

A Brief History of Groundhog Day

I think Punxsutawney Phil just stared into my soul and made it shit itself (Image)
Every year on February 2nd, people all over North America emerge from their homes and gather to honor an age-old tradition.  This tradition, which is practiced in towns stretching from Texas to Canada, lends an ear to a minority whose words are not often heard, and extends a large, figurative middle finger to meteorologists all over the world.

Groundhog Day, a tradition that has taken an especially firm stranglehold on the small community of Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania since 1886, relies on whether or not local groundhogs see their shadow upon exiting their burrows on the morning of February 2nd.  On a deeper level, the tradition's foundation teeters precariously on whether or not a groundhog understands what a shadow is.

Many mammals compete to be the face of Groundhog Day.  Those vying for the holiday spotlight (...the Sun) include Wiarton Willie from Ontario, Shubenacadie Sam from Nova Scotia, Staten Island Chuck, Bill Murray, and the "Prairie Prognosticator" Balzac Billy, whose name sounds suspiciously like a scrotum.

All of these individuals, however, have failed to outshine the woodchuck that has become the face of the February 2nd festivities: Punxsutawney Phil

According to the lore of Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, Phil has been predicting the timing of the coming Spring season for over 125 years.  Since groundhogs typically live a maximum of around ten years in captivity, this seems completely reasonable.  For those of you that need to dwell on frivolous things like math, keep in mind that Phil drinks a "magic elixir of life" annually which increases his life by seven years with each consumption.  And assuming "magic elixir of life" is code for "milk", then hot damn, I'm living forever.

...What can I say? I love me some moo juice.

The history of Groundhog Day stems from the traditions of Candlemas Day, which was celebrated by some of the early Christians in Europe and brought to the United States by German immigrants known as the Pennsylvania Dutch.  According to Candlemas Day traditions,

"If Candlemas be fair and bright,
Winter has another flight.
If Candlemas brings clouds and rain,
Winter will not come again." 

Unfamiliar with such animals as ageless groundhogs, the Germans previously relied on badgers to make their seasonal predictions.  However, upon arriving in Pennsylvania and deciding they liked marijuana and wooden shoes more than bratwurst and genocide, the immigrants chose the groundhog as their new, wise woodland creature.

Since 1886, Punxsutawney Phil has been watched over by trusted members of the Inner Circle--a group of grown men in tuxedos and stovepipe hats that act as Phil's handlers.  Year after year, they prevent Phil from going into hibernation like a normal groundhog so that they may drag him from his hole every February to tell us whether our next six weeks will bring miserably cold temperatures or debilitating seasonal allergies.

The Inner Circle, whose president speaks to Phil in Groundhogese and lacks significant creativity in regards to linguistic nomenclature, claims Phil has been 100% correct in his predictions since the inaugural Groundhog Day.  According to science, Phil has been correct around 40% of the time.  And while this may not sound all too impressive at first glance, keep in mind that if this success rate was explained in terms of baseball batting statistics, Punxsutawney Phil would be the Ted Williams of Gobbler's Knob.

On the downside, if you explain Phil's success rate in terms of coin flips, he has the IQ equivalent to that of a vegetable.

But back on the upside, Phil lives in a place called Gobbler's Knob.  I don't feel like I have to say anything more about that.

In the years ahead, those qualified to comment on the matter (scientists) predict global warming will eventually make Groundhogs Day obsolete.  With the Earth eventually warming to the equivalent of planetary swamp-ass, no one will need a woodchuck to tell them there won't be a winter.  However Punxsutawney Phil will likely continued to be compensated for his prognostications, as he is part of a union.

1 comment:

  1. Haha, nice sarcasm.

    Why was it named "Gobbler's Knob" in the first place? Was male prostitution invented there?