Sunday, February 14, 2010

Bone to pick with a groundhog

Groundhog Day was February 2, and I've watched one too many celebrations of six more weeks of winter.

I have a bone to pick with this mythical German custom turned enterprise. An industry in and of itself, this pagan holiday is a racket for which we all seem to be suckers.

Every year, we peer into our TVs, watching and waiting for Punxsutawney Phil's weather prediction.

If he sees his shadow, we'll have the dreaded six more weeks of winter. Oh, ple-e-e-ease! This is the hoax of all hoaxes and we fall for it every time.

Why is it for the past 50 years that I've paid attention to Phil, I never once heard him say spring is on its way? It's always six more weeks of winter. I could have told you that! Who needs Punxsutawney Phil, anyway?

This holiday makes me so crazy that I find myself arguing with a darn groundhog.

I was born in Pennsylvania. My mother was born in Punxsutawney, and I'm here to tell you that the Keystone State has more than 300 cloudy or overcast days annually.

The chances of Phil seeing his shadow anywhere in the state are slim to none. Yet, every year it's the same old story. Blah, blah, blah.

Come on! Doesn't February 2 occur between the Winter Solstice and the Spring Equinox. Of course, it does, which means we have SIX MORE WEEKS OF WINTER!

It doesn't take a furry over-sized rat and a bunch of smiling men standing around dressed in tuxedos and top hats to tell me that.

I don't like to admit it but those Punxsutawnians are smart. Not only is the town all about Groundhog Day, the Punxsutawney "Inner Circle" has created a year-round business with festivals, special gatherings, recipes and even lesson plans for schoolteachers!

And just when I thought Groundhog Day was a goofy Pennsylvania tradition, I found 52 Groundhog Day chapters in the U.S. and Canada with names like "5 O'clock Shadows" in Columbia, S.C; "Bug Eaters Groundhog Club" of Lincoln, Neb.; and "Can't Find Our Own Shadow" in Frankfort, Ky.

The most alliterative chapter is "Punxsy Phil's Party Pretties, Political Pundits and Pontificating Old Poops" of Annandale, Va. I want to be a member of that chapter.

My favorite, if I can call it that, is "Hollywood Beach Bums" in Hollywood, Fla. I think I could handle Groundhog Day in Florida, where the average temperature is 60 degrees. Ah-h-h...just another sunny day in paradise. Six more weeks of winter? No problem.

If all the hoopla over a whole lot of nothing isn't enough, there's even poetry written about this annual prognostication...

"If Candlemas day be sunny and bright,
Winter again will show its might,
If Candlemas Day be cloudy and gray,
Winter soon will pass away." [Author unknown]

To channel my inner frustration over Groundhog Day and the monopoly Punxsutawney has over it, I wrote a poem.

"If Punxsutawney Phil already knows,
That winter will send additional snows
Then why in the world do we celebrate
A prediction that we all really do hate."

I rest my case.

2010 © Copyright Paula Damon. A resident of Southeast South Dakota, Paula Damon is a national award-winning columnist. Her columns have won first-place in National Federation of Press Women, South Dakota Press Women and Iowa Press Women Communications Contests. In the 2009 South Dakota Press Women Communications Contest, Paula's columns took three first-place awards. To contact Paula, email, follow her blog at and find her on Facebook.

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