Groundhog Day

You hear the words “Groundhog Day”, what image do you see?


Celtic wheel of the year

2 February was first celebrated as a holiday by Celts, called Imbolc. There is no documentation of the paleoamericans who were in Puxsutawney celebrating large rodents as anything other than dinner so  the Celts get the credit.

It is a cross quarter day, midway from the Winter solstice to the Vernal equinox. It is celebrated as Candlemas day in the traditional Catholic church, and in Germany the tradition of forecasting weather on Candalemas originated. “If the hedgehog sees his shadow at Candlemas, he will crawl back into his hole for another six weeks”. Short on hedgehogs and national identity in the new world (the Pennsylvania Dutch are actually Pennsylvania Deutsch, or Germans) they adopted the groundhog and the tradition continues.


Wenn der Igel Lichtmess seinen Schatten sieht,
so Kriecht er wieder auf sechs Wochen ins Loch.

Interesting (to me) aside. Cross quarter days are approximately forty days apart. Forty days is a period mentioned several times in the Bible, and some linguists feel it is used in a non literal sense, as in “a long time”. It can be seen as a very large number, twice the fingers and toes of one person. Forty lashes was the maximum punishment. David reigned as King for forty years. Israel ate manna for forty years. Egypt was desolate for forty years. Abdon has forty sons (and hopefully more than one wife). The great flood was forty days of rain. And then forty days is a cross quarter interval. I love when math intersects with customs.

The image that came to your head when you heard “Groundhog Day” was more than likely this:

I love that film. I love the story, the moral, the performances, in fact the only thing I don’t like about the movie is the way it has become an overwhelming cultural reference.

Groundhog Day was a film. The experience of the character “Phil” is Déjà vu, or “Already seen”. Déjà vu was also a song by Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young on their album of the same name and different pronunciation. Yes, in one of those “almost a homonym” situations, “vu”, French for “seen” is not pronounced as “view”, English for “scene”. “Groundhog Day” is not a synonym for “Déjà vu”. Yogi Bera would have a field day with this.

This year Groundhog day was also Superbowl day, a day Peyton Manning would certainly want to never repeat.

Didn’t see that one coming.


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