Groundhog Day: The best part of Pennsylvania

Ryan Hill, Contributing Writer

We’ve reached February, which can only mean one thing: it’s time to watch a groundhog named Phil come out of a hole and tell us how much longer winter is gonna be. Of course, to many across the country, Groundhog Day is a pretty insignificant holiday that ultimately decides nothing about how the actual weather will be for the weeks to come. For those who are uneducated about the specifics of the day, Groundhog Day is based on a Pennsylvania Dutch superstition that if a groundhog emerges from its burrow home on Feb. 2 and sees its shadow, then winter will last for six more weeks. If the groundhog does not see its shadow, then spring will arrive early.  There is no actual scientific backing to this prediction and often is actually contradictory to what the weather actually turns out to be over those weeks. Despite the silliness behind the whole event, and the amount of fanfare that goes into such an insignificant yearly ritual, I can’t help but absolutely love this holiday and everything surrounding it. As a Pennsylvanian native, this may be the best part about living here for me.

Growing up in Pa., I wasn’t necessarily connected to Punxsutawney Phil in any emotional way. I knew Groundhog Day came every year, and my parents always reminded me that “you know, Phil actually lives in Pa. like us” which would always intrigue me. As I got older, I would research more about the holiday and events surrounding it and just how crazy it all seemed. Starting at three in the morning, nearly 25,000 people gather at Gobbler’s Knob to essentially party the morning away (no alcohol of course). There are performances all morning long, leading up to Phil’s posse bringing him out for the crowd to see and gawk at. The group even claims that Phil speaks to the president of the Groundhog Club in “groundhog-ese”. This is such an absurd series of events that most outsiders might look at and shove aside as ridiculous. Well, I do admit it is ridiculous, I think that’s what I love so much about it.

It is such a remarkably Pennsylvanian thing to take something that’s so uninteresting or mediocre and turn it into a spectacle that is passionately loved across the state. This whole holiday represents the heart and soul of Pennsylvania, whether it be our sports teams that often disappoint us or a steak sandwich that might suck if you don’t get it from the right place. We Pennsylvanians will put anything on a pedestal that makes us feel remotely any pride, and I love it so much. I know that not all Pennsylvanians share the same sentiment that I and many others do, but I just can’t help getting excited every year for an event that will have no other effect on my life. 

Many days in this state can feel like a total letdown. The weather is cold and unforgiving, the politics are just as divided as the rest of the nation and the global pandemic still rages on especially in our largest cities. What I count on though, what keeps me going and fills me with pride about living in this state, are the little victories that come from what we idealize. To me, that’s what’s so special about Groundhog Day. People are willing to get up for three in the morning to stand around in the cold and wait for a groundhog to probably make an inaccurate prediction about how long winter is going to be. If that isn’t pride in what this great state stands for, I don’t know what is. We learned this past Tuesday that Phil predicted six more weeks of winter, and I couldn’t be happier to be a part of the state that provides this experience.

See you next year, Phil.

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