Seventy-two years now, and I still fail to understand how things become a big deal in our public discourse.
“What’s the old bat talking about now?” I hear you mumble. For the first time in many a moon, I find that I must disagree with a Liberty’s Torch Co-Conspirator. Apparently, our beloved Ragin’ Dave has a problem with that most inoffensive of our popular observances, Groundhog Day. And so I find that I must rise to its defense.
Groundhog Day isn’t “made up.” It’s actually a combination of an old British farmers’ tradition with the Catholic holiday of Candlemas, on which we commemorate Mary’s presentation of the newborn Christ Child to the priests in the temple at Jerusalem:
And when the days of her purification according to the law of Moses were accomplished, they brought him to Jerusalem, to present him to the Lord;
(As it is written in the law of the Lord, Every male that openeth the womb shall be called holy to the Lord;)
And to offer a sacrifice according to that which is said in the law of the Lord, A pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons.
And, behold, there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon; and the same man was just and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel: and the Holy Ghost was upon him. And it was revealed unto him by the Holy Ghost, that he should not see death, before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. And he came by the Spirit into the temple: and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him after the custom of the law, Then took he him up in his arms, and blessed God, and said, Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word: For mine eyes have seen thy salvation, Which thou hast prepared before the face of all people; A light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel.
And Joseph and his mother marvelled at those things which were spoken of him.
And Simeon blessed them, and said unto Mary his mother, Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel; and for a sign which shall be spoken against;
(Yea, a sword shall pierce through thy own soul also,) that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.
Also, British farmers used ground-dwelling rodents as meteorologists long before we started doing so here. There’s even a bit of verse about it:
Badger peeps out on Candlemas Day,
and if he finds snow, he walks away.
But if the sun is shining down,
Badger returns to his hole in the ground.
So let’s be fair, now. “Holiday” is the wrong designation for this observance. Scrooge didn’t give Bob Cratchit a day off for Groundhog Day. No one gives presents or sends cards for Groundhog Day. No one does any marketing for Groundhog Day. People don’t rush out to buy groundhogs for their toddlers to play with (and a good thing, too). Public service messages don’t even exhort you to “be nice to your local groundhog.” I mean, yes, there’s a movie, but its relationship to the annual occasion is slight. So I wouldn’t call Groundhog Day a particularly intrusive “holiday.”
Remember, a few years back, when the Giant Greeting Card companies tried to promote Grandmothers’ and Grandfathers’ Days? It was vital to stand foursquare against that, but Groundhog Day? I think we can tolerate this one. Though I must admit that I’m not looking forward to the lowering of flags and the national day of mourning we’ll be told to observe when Punxsutawney Phil goes to his reward.