As we become more and more of an indoor nation, nicely insulated
from the vicissitudes of winter, we also seem to have become more and
more obsessed by the weather, and so it is that Feb. 2 is Groundhog
Only nitpickers insist that it should properly be called the much
more mellifluous Candlemas Day.
The early German settlers in Pennsylvania brought with them a
tradition regarding hedgehogs.
There being no hedgehogs in the New
World, the much larger groundhog would have to do.
As a former defense
secretary might have said, sometimes you have to work with the rodent
you have rather than the rodent you want.
The tradition was that if the groundhog emerged from his burrow and
saw his shadow, there would be six more weeks of winter weather.
the day was overcast and the groundhog saw no shadow, spring was right
around the corner.
Groundhog Day was most famously celebrated in Punxsutawney, Pa.,
where let's face it midwinter diversion is at a premium, and the
Feb. 2 appearance of Phil the Groundhog became the occasion for a big
The observance might have remained relatively local except for the
appearance in 1993 of an oddly compelling movie starring Bill Murray
called ``Groundhog Day.''
Murray, as an obnoxiously self-centered TV
weatherman, is dispatched to Punxsutawney to cover the festivities,
but becomes trapped there and is condemned to live the same day over
and over and over again until he learns generosity and compassion,
naps out of the time loop and is rewarded with Andie McDowell.
In short order, Punxsutawney Phil was certified as a minor American
icon by appearing on ``Oprah,'' and the expression ``groundhog day''
had become universally understood shorthand for numbing repetition.
Could an educated nation embrace a pagan custom rooted in the
Teutonic tribes of Northern Europe that attributes meteorological
skills to a drowsy rodent rousted out of winter hibernation?
This is such a wonderful country.
(Distributed by Scripps Howard News Service,