02 February 2009

Rise and Shine Campers! It’s Groundhog Day!

I love quirky, bizarre holidays. Easter, Thanksgiving, Valentine’s Day, Independence Day . . . they just don’t get my mind a’ whirling. But a nutball celebration like Halloween, the quirkiest holiday to actually get major continent-wide recognition, is something else all together. It’s love wrapped up in a weird, gory, funny, spider-web encrusted package tied with black and orange ribbons.

But Halloween is a few months past, and even more months away. Today is another one of those wonderfully weird holidays. One with a great celebratory meaning to me.

Yes, rise and shine campers. It’s Groundhog Day!

A holiday descending from German immigrants who brought with them the fable of an animal predicting the coming of an early spring, Groundhog Day is damn wonderful because it presents the spectacle of a Marmota monax, essentially an enormous and sedentary rodent, getting hoisted by men in Victorian top hats and greatcoats before an early-morning crowd of people partying but half-freezing in the February cold, and then pretending that said enormous rodent has foreknowledge of weather conditions for the next six weeks.

Or, as famous weatherman Phil Connors summarizes: “This is one time when television truly fails to capture the excitement of a large squirrel predicting the weather.”

How can you not love this? I love it, and I live in a place where six more weeks of winter translates to “it might rain once, and it will drop to 50º at night.”

There are a number of Prognosticating Groundhog Day Groundhogs, but the two most famous are Punxsutawney Phil (pictured above from this morning) and Staten Island Chuck. No surprise, they disagree today about the future weather. Chuck says early spring. Phil says six more weeks of winter. However, I doubt the Punxsutawney, PA crowd felt bad. Their football team won the Superbowl yesterday. A gloomy Phil won’t get them down.

How do I, a simple Californian, celebrate Groundhog Day? My father and I make our ritual yearly viewing of the movie Groundhog Day, of course. It’s one of my dad’s favorite movies, and I think it’s one of the best comedies to come out of the 1990s, if not the best. This movie makes Groundhog Day something special for te entire country. So if you have the movie on DVD, make sure you watch it tonight and ask yourself, “Does Phil feel lucky?”

And here’s one for my brother, off in Georgia, who is another huge fan of this film:
“What would you do, if you were stuck in one place, and every day was exactly the same, and nothing that you did mattered?”

“That about sums it up for me.”