A Whole Ton of Stuff You Never Knew about Groundhog Day

Barry Lenson

I was driving across Pennsylvania a few weeks ago when I passed a road sign for the town of Punxsutawney. Frankly, I was shocked.

Of course I knew about a groundhog named Punxsutawney Phil – the groundhog who either makes an appearance on Groundhog Day or fails to do so – but I had never realized that he was named for Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, his home town. When you are as ignorant as I am, life becomes a journey of constant discovery. And now I know a ton more about Punxsutawney Phil, because I have visited the official Groundhog Day website.  For one thing, I learned to spell Punxsutawney. Try it, it isn’t easy.

There is a ton of information about Groundhog Day on that website. For example, I never knew that there is an official Groundhog Day Ball where you can dance the night away. There is also an official Groundhog Day Banquet for people who like to eat without dancing. And if you’re dieting, you can attend a Groundhog Day event where you will only eat breakfast with Phil.

All that info got me thinking about the whole Groundhog Day tradition.  I began to realize that Groundhog Day, like many traditional holidays, is really not what it seems. I began to draw some startling conclusions:

  • Groundhog Day was really created by Plato, the famous Greek philosopher. In The Republic, he wrote about a cave where prisoners were chained.  Obviously, he was really referring to Punxsutawney Phil, who also lives underground for most of the year. If you doubt this astonishing theory, investigate further by taking StraighterLine’s Introduction to Philosophy course.
  • Groundhog Day is a religious holiday.  I promise that I don’t mean to offend anybody. But have you noticed that there are certain similarities between Groundhog Day and several tales told in the great religions? In the Egyptian Book of the Dead, for example, the body of the god Osiris gets trapped inside the trunk of a tree and he has to find a way to get out. (Sounds a little like Phil, no?) In the Old Testament Jonah gets stuck in a whale, kind of like Phil, who gets stuck underground. And of course Christians know that after Jesus was crucified and buried, he rose Phil-like from the grave. There is no indication in either the Book of the Dead or the Bible that Osiris or Jonah or Jesus saw their shadows when they emerged or that spring was only seven weeks away. Maybe they just left that part out. You can investigate further by taking StraighterLine’s Introduction to Religion class.
  • Punxsutawney Phil is an environmentalist.  If you take StraighterLine’s Introduction to Environmental Science course, you will realize immediately that Phil practices a very green lifestyle. He doesn’t drive an SUV or burn fossil fuels to keep warm. He doesn’t have a big carbon footprint, just four muddy little paw prints. Heck, he LIVES UNDERGROUND! How much more in tune with Mother Earth do you want him to be?
  • Punxsutawney Phil is a Yoga master. Incredibly, he has mastered the art of lowering his own metabolism and slowing his breathing. He hibernates. People study Yoga for years to learn how to do that stuff, but all they need to do is watch Punxsutawney Phil. 
  • Punxsutawney Phil is a symbol for the typical college student.  Like a college student, he rarely emerges from his room. He never takes a shower. Every day is a bad hair day.  He probably doesn’t smell too great. Yet everybody is delighted to see Phil, just like everybody is glad to see a college student who finally stumbles out a dormitory, blinking at the light of day and looking for a can of beer, a hoagie, or a pack of Ramen noodles. I rest my case.
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