How is it that we have a day dedicated to waking up one silly groundhog in the middle of nowhere Pennsylvania? And it was important enough that Outlook has it automatically on my calendar as an American holiday. And that old white men in top hats gather around a stage set up for this event to see if he sees his shadow, only to dig him out no matter what and hoist the little guy above their heads. And people camp out in freezing temperatures only to wake at 3:00 a.m. to get a good view of the festivities. And we teach children about this in school as if it were normal. And then you tell me this is supposed to predict the weather? Explain this to me.
Here’s my theory: Once upon a time, there was a brilliant Punxsutawney, PA employee in the Economic Development office charged with generating income and spurring media attention. Someone in the office kept a pet groundhog. Somehow the two got crossed. They blasted the media and it worked. Ta-da, America. Kudos to you, whoever you are. Reminds me a bit of something Leslie Knope would think up in Pawnee, IN. Wait a minute….
Well, might as well enjoy it friendly readers. Here are some fun facts from the official website and my comments.
- The average groundhog is 20 inches long and normally weighs from 12 to 15 pounds. Punxsutawney Phil weighs about 20 pounds and is 22 inches long. (An obese groundhog. Figures.)
- Groundhogs are covered with coarse grayish hairs (fur) tipped with brown or sometimes dull red. They have short ears, a short tail, short legs, and are surprisingly quick. Their jaws are exceptionally strong. (Not quick enough to run from those strange guys in top hats.)
- A groundhog’s diet consists of lots of greens, fruits, and vegetables and very little water. Most of their liquids come from dewy leaves. (Much better than the average American’s diet, and yet he can’t seem to lose the weight? It’s the mountain dew-y leaves, for sure.)
- A groundhog can whistle when it is alarmed. Groundhogs also whistle in the spring when they begin courting. (I hope those little girl groundhogs can tell the difference.)
- Insects do not bother groundhogs and germs pretty much leave them alone. They are resistant to the plagues that periodically wipe out large numbers of wild animals. One reason for this is their cleanliness. (Smart germs.)
- Groundhogs are one of the few animals that really hibernate. Hibernation is not just a deep sleep. It is actually a deep coma, where the body temperature drops to a few degrees above freezing, the heart barely beats, the blood scarcely flows, and breathing nearly stops. (Sounds like a few dates I’ve been on.)
- Young Groundhogs are usually born in mid-April or May, and by July they are able to go out on their own. The size of the litter is 4 to 9. A baby groundhog is called a kit or a cub. (It doesn’t seem right to make fun of baby groundhogs, so I’ll leave this one alone.)
- A groundhog’s life span is normally 6 to 8 years. Phil receives a drink of a magical punch every summer during the annual Groundhog Picnic, which gives him 7 more years of life. (Seriously, I can’t make this up.)
I think we all just learned a little bit about this American “tradition”. You’re welcome. But have you seen the video? For real, this is a trip. Phil doesn’t even have time to look for a shadow because he’s too busy being manhandled! Then he sniffs some scrolls, to which a man announces, “I have been instructed which scroll to read.” Wha? “The Steelers are going to the Superbowl!” Duh, doesn’t take a groundhog coming out of hibernation to figure that out. Then yes, spring is coming. Thanks guy with a top hat. Very helpful. Can I get some data on the accuracy of the last 125 years please?
The real hero here is Phil, who has this awesomely chill look on his face. I’d be biting and scrambling. Must be the magic punch.
So, happy Groundhog’s Day to you.