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Wednesday, January 31, 2007
Groundhog Day Is Coming

Why Groundhog Day? What we're doing at my house. What you could do to celebrate the day. And a groundhog injustice in the making.

This is Wednesday. Groundhog Day is Friday. I'm almost ready. Are you?

If you don't care to celebrate the day, you might want to skip to the last section below, because even people who don't care about Groundhog Day should care about injustice, right?

Why Groundhog Day?

Last year, right about this time of year, it struck me that LocalCommentary.com needs a quasi-official holiday of its own. Given our frequent devotion here to politics and government, you might think that Independence Day, Washington's or Lincoln's birthday, Memorial Day, or even Constitution Day (September 17) might be the logical choice. But I ask you, What's the point of a holiday that is just more of the same?

No, we need a quasi-official holiday that is not inherently political, and, better still, one that doesn't already entail serious traditional obligations, as Halloween, Christmas, and Thanksgiving do. I myself flirt with political burnout in the run-up to the President's State of the Union speech in late January, and I'm still burned out on genuine religious holidays, so early February is the perfect time for something lighter. We need more holidays in February, anyway. Valentine's Day has too many emotional investments and financially costly expectations for some.

Groundhog Day is practically perfect. It happens every February 2. It is very minor. It comes with no expectations except for a meaningless weather forecast by a lower mammal. There's a great movie to adopt. And people are already accustomed to having fun with Groundhog Day, so the battle is half won.

At My House

Here's how we're celebrating Groundhog Day at my house and/or here at LocalCommentary.com, which happens to be hosted on a little server at my house.

  • The Groundhog Day Limerick Contest (follow link for details) closes for entries on Groundhog Day at 8:00 a.m. MST, and I hope to have winners selected and their winning limericks posted by 5:00 p.m.
  • I will prepare for my half-eager, half-suspicious family members a hearty and delectable meal featuring "mystery meat," which they may or may not eat.
  • All family members are invited to join me in watching the classic Bill Murray movie Groundhog Day after dinner. We might even get crazy and watch the excellent special feature that comes on the DVD, "The Weight of Time."

How You Might Celebrate Groundhog Day

Sorry, you're not invited to my home on Groundhog Day unless you already live here (with one or two possible exceptions who probably are not you). There's another good thing about the day: No one's expected to invite anyone. But you could do the following -- and you'll note some similarities to my list above, so you don't have to feel left out.

  • Enter a limerick or two or five in the Groundhog Day Limerick Contest (follow link for details), which closes for entries on Groundhog Day at 8:00 a.m. MST.
  • Savor the winning limericks that evening -- and you might even be able to bask in the glow of having won an excellent prize for your efforts.
  • Feed your family "mystery meat." No road kill, please. (If you plan ahead next year, you might be able to come up with something really unusual.) Cook and serve it pleasantly and well, of course.
  • Watch your own copy of Groundhog Day, and maybe even the special feature.
  • If you don't own Groundhog Day and don't win it in the limerick contest, go to Target or Amazon.com or somewhere and get a copy right away, so you'll be ready for next year. (If you buy it here, a small portion of the purchase price supports LocalCommentary.com, and you don't pollute the air by driving to Target, where it's slightly cheaper. See? I wrote that with a straight face.)
  • Check out last year's Groundhog Day wisdom here at the blog. On the day before the blessed holiday last year, I interviewed myself on your behalf. You'll find interesting links there (including to familiar tunes with alternative Groundhog Day lyrics), along with a curious, lightly annotated list of Punxsutawney Phil wanna-bes.

Enjoy the holiday, folks.

Prairie Dogs Are Not Groundhogs

Alert reader Barbara Christiansen kindly forwarded a press release this week. It reports a small but growing movement in the West to make the groundhogs share their day with prairie dogs. Unsurprisingly, humans are behind this. Also unsurprisingly, one of the epicenters of this little disturbance is the city of my birth, Boulder, Colorado. In my childhood I met quite a number of prairie dogs there, and I really have no beef with them. They're cute.

I don't blame the prairie dogs themselves. Even Boulder's guilt is somewhat derivative. Boulder is following the lead of some misguided cities in New Mexico on this one -- not Berkeley, California, for a change. They are Sante Fe and Albuquerque, if you must know. But prairie dogs? This is so not the way to celebrate the day.

The Denver- and Santa Fe-based Forest Guardians disagree. They have one of those annoying Web sites that plays audio when you go to its home page. Yes, there's a little online video about prairie dogs and the day the humans want to steal on their behalf, but don't expect Bill Murray and Andie MacDowell.

I know the Groundhog Day tent is big enough to welcome Phil's colleagues, Dunkirk Dave, Mr. Prozac, Chilly Charlie, Shubenacadie Sam, Octorara Orphie, Pierre C. Shadeaux, and others with less euphonious names. In fact, it even (for reasons I don't quite understand) embraces dubious peers such as Furby the Wonder Chicken and The Virtual Groundhog.

But let me be succinct: Groundhog Day is Groundhog Day. Any other mammals who wish to have their own day should find another day. There are at least 364 other days each year, and most of them are not taken. They should keep their paws, furry or otherwise, off February 2.

And someone should tell the Forest Guardians that prairie dogs don't live in the forest.

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