The best thing about Groundhog Day is the 1993 film by the same name. The film didn’t make famous the groundhog who inspired the film’s name, but it certainly catapulted him to the heights of notoriety. Just as the groundhog seems to be in a time warp reliving the same day every year, the film has explored the human condition where every day feels the same as if you are on a hamster wheel going around in circles.
Punxsutawney Phil is a groundhog in Pennsylvania, USA who is used to predict the coming of Spring. He has become a cultural icon, and Groundhog Day – 2 February – is ensconced in the international news cycles.
Phil, the main character in the 1993 film played by Bill Murray, makes fun of this erstwhile tradition. His namesake, the groundhog, … emerged from his burrow and did not see his shadow which is interpreted as the coming of an early Spring.
The Punxsutawney Groundhog Club’s records reveal that the groundhog has been wrong 60% of the time, yet the tradition, more akin to a folk story or fable, continues with great enthusiasm and respect. It’s far more entertaining than flipping a coin, and probably brings much needed notoriety and commerce to an otherwise forgotten Punxsutawney, a town in Pennsylvania whose population is about 5,700.
Let’s face it, the odds are not difficult for Phil – he has a fifty percent chance of getting it right or wrong. If he predicts an early Spring, and it doesn’t happen, we can blame it on climate change; if he predicts 6 more weeks of winter and he gets it wrong, we will be pleasantly surprised when winter ends earlier than expected.
Today is Groundhog Day and Phil has brought hope to dispel our despair over the harsh winter conditions being unleashed in various parts of the world, not just in the USA. But, let’s face it, we still embrace a healthy cynicism that these conditions may persist for the full duration of winter.
Some might say it’s a harmless tradition, but are we so desperate for entertainment that we need to perpetuate a silly and irrational tradition. Perhaps we should stop trying to predict the seasons and just let that come when they may. But they shall come, regardless of the weather forecast or prognostications of a rodent.
Genesis 8:22 reminds us that, “while the earth remains seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, Winter and summer, and day and night, shall not cease.” If there’s one thing to love about Groundhog Day is that it comes to an end. If there’s one thing to learn about the seasons of life and climate, is that they have a shelf life, and no matter how unbearable they seem, they too shall pass.