Thursday, January 31, 2008


Groundhog Day is only two days away. The excitement on people’s faces is almost palpable.

I don’t know about you, but I’m almost relieved when it’s finally over.

First of all, the relentless hype has really killed a lot of the joy for me. It used to be, you didn’t hear Groundhog Day music in every frickin’ retail establishment in the world - at least, not until right after New Year’s Day, when the holiday season “officially” begins. Not any more. Now, Groundhog Carols are the order of the day, 24/7, starting right after Thanksgiving. It’s relentless.

The malls are packed with people doing their last-minute shopping for Groundhog Day gifts, and post offices burn the midnight oil to keep up with the volume of packages and Groundhog Greeting cards. And it’s almost a given in the retail business that 60% of their business is done in the weeks leading up to Christmas; most of the remaining 40% comes from Groundhog Day. A successful ’Hog Season often means the difference between success and failure for small businesses.

That, of course, means hype. Advertising. A constant barrage of TV ads. Postal workers straining under mailbags laden with massive Groundhog Day catalogs.

And then there are the decorations. It seems that everybody is constantly trying to outdo the Joneses, putting up ever-more-elaborate displays. Lights by the megawatt, inflatable groundhog lairs...sometimes it makes me yearn for a simpler time, a time when every family dug a simple hole in the front yard, and Dad was content with a handmade cardboard top hat.

Now, don’t get the wrong idea. I’m hardly a Groundhog-Scrooge. I love this time of year as much as anybody. Holiday parties, the special seasonal foods, Hog Nog - it’s all good. But sometimes I worry that the real meaning of the day has gotten lost amidst all the hoopla.

After all, isn’t the holiday supposed to be about Phil?

Not Phil as we see him today, surrounded by handlers and media flacks. Just Phil, the simple woodland creature, on a mission from God to predict the weather. His message is one of peace and dignity, one that is immune from the cares of the everyday world. Global warming? Kyoto? Photo ops? News reporters? Pfaugh. Punxsutawney Phil cares not for these things.

They are merely temporal - and temporary. But the light of Phil’s love is eternal.

Put the Ground back in Groundhog Day! And may your Groundhog Day be sweet.

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