BY CATHERINE TROLL
February 2, the halfway point of winter, marks a nationally-acknowledged, but largely Pennsylvanian holiday known as Groundhog Day. This day rolls tradition, meteorology and the groundhog into a celebration that could be bizarre to the casual observer. On Groundhog Day, the groundhog crawls out of his home to look for his shadow. Legend has it that if he sees his shadow and crawls back into his hole, it means six more weeks of winter. If he does not see his shadow, it is supposed to mean an early spring, and he stays outside. The groundhog generally accredited for these predictions is named Punxsutawney Phil. He is kept in Punxsutawney, Pa, where the bulk of Groundhog Day celebrations occur.
According to the holiday’s official website, www.groundhog.org, Groundhog Day was started by the German immigrants who came to Pennsylvania. Groundhog Day stems from the celebration of Candlemas, which also takes place on Feb. 2. Candlemas, also called the Feast of Lights, marks the Presentation of Christ in the temple. Candlemas got its name because on that day, all the candles used in the churches were blessed. The Germans believed that the weather could be predicted by the length of the shadows on Candlemas. Groundhog Day eventually evolved from this traditional belief.
Many events flank the celebration of Groundhog Day in Punxsutawney. There is the Battle of the Cupcakes, during which Indiana University Pennsylvania culinary students create Groundhog-themed cupcakes and displays. There are also activities for children such as the Shaggy Mountain Petting Zoo and a weather discovery center.
For the most part, Franciscan students don’t think much about Groundhog Day.
“I knew what it was ever since I was pretty small,” said Ari Thatcher of Keizer, Ore. “I think my mom or my sister told me about it, but I never really thought it was a big deal.”
Laura Boner of Douglas, Wyo. Agreed. “I feel rather indifferent about Groundhog’s Day.”
Ian Gill of Annapolis, Md, said, “As the great Yogi Berra said, ‘It’s déjà vu all over again.'”
To one adamant student, Mark Ternus of Columbus, Neb., Groundhog Day is just downright inhumane: “Groundhog’s Day tortures the groundhog. Put yourself in his shoes. You are dreaming of prancing through a field of lilies that morning when, all of a sudden, three burly guys break into your house and drag you out. Then 500 people are blinding you with their cameras. All you want to do is run back to your bed and sleep and forget everything that happened, only to hear all 500 people shouting, ‘Two more weeks of winter!'”