February 2nd is Groundhog Day, the day the nation waits to see if a prognosticating groundhog named Punxsutawney Phil will forecast six more weeks of winter, which this year could signify more days of record-breaking colder temperatures in many parts of the country. The legend goes like this; if Phil sees his shadow on February 2nd, there will be six more weeks of winter. If not, we’ll all enjoy an early spring. However, if you play the odds you might want to know that the groundhog has only not seen his shadow 18 times in the last 132 years. The belief is that if the groundhog sees his shadow and runs back inside, its because he’s sheltering in his den from the colder days to come.
Gobbler’s Knob, Pennsylvania is a wooded hill just a few miles outside Punxsutawney where folks gather from around the country to watch Phil emerge from his cozy underground home and make his prediction. Way back in 1886 when the Punxsutawney Spirit newspaper declared Phil as America’s official weather forecasting groundhog, it’s doubtful they knew the tradition would spread across the globe and continue until the present day. With much of the country experiencing subzero, double-digit temperatures this winter, many people hope Phil does not see his shadow, and that fairer weather is on the way. However, since the beginning of February signals the start of longer days and hence, more light, there’s a good chance the famous groundhog will see his shadow and retreat underground.
Why February 2nd? The first day of winter is December 21st, and the first day of Spring is March 20th. February 2nd is right in the middle of those two dates. Groundhog Day supposedly stems from an ancient European celebration known as Candlemas, which was celebrated midway between the winter solstice and spring equinox. There’s an old English song that goes, “If Candlemas be fair and bright, come, winter, have another flight. If Candlemas brings cold and rain, go, winter and come not again.” Pennsylvania Dutch from Germany believed that if a badger saw its shadow on Candlemas, there would be six more weeks of bad weather. Today, many towns in the U.S. have their own groundhogs, but Punxsutawney Phil is still considered the only true, official weather expert and rodent meteorologist.
Since the film of the same name was released in 1993 starring Bill Murray and Andie MacDowell, Groundhog Day has earned a reputation as a “Do-over Day”. In the film, Murray plays a local television weatherman Phil Conners, who covers the annual event at Gobbler’s Knob every year. It’s business as usual until Murray wakes up the next day to find himself caught in a time loop, where it’s always Groundhog Day, every day. The main plot point in the movie is the fact that Murray’s character must keep reliving the same day and modifying his words and actions until he gets it right, and time can move on. He has endless “do over” opportunities, and the chance to change his mindset and behavior in any given situation. Many of us would love to have the kind of do-over opportunities Phil Conners had, but those chances rarely happen in real life, if ever.
What would you do if you were stuck in the same day, over and over? Would you look up an old friend? Mend fences with an old enemy? Eat all your favorite foods? Spend time with your loved ones? Go on an adventure? Ride a hot air balloon? Maybe go skydiving? We may not have the opportunity to live the same day again and again, but we do have today. Is there someone you’ve been meaning to reach out to? Is there a letter of forgiveness or a thank you card you’ve been meaning to write, or someone from whom you need to ask forgiveness for yourself? Have you been putting off taking a vacation, looking up an old friend, or taking a risk? Why not take time today to do those things you’ve been meaning to do? Write a letter, pick up the phone, send a card, or take the day off. The dictionary definition of a “do-over” is ‘a new attempt or opportunity to do something after a previous attempt has been unsuccessful or unsatisfactory.”
We may not know what tomorrow holds, but we to have the power to decide how we live today, and get it right. Happy Groundhog Day!