Christmas, Thanksgiving and New Year’s are now behind us and Valentine’s Day is not yet here. At this point in my life, I am finding a great sense of appreciation for a lesser holiday. It is one that doesn’t require decorating, present buying, and wearing seasonal clothing; best of all, it isn’t tied to celebrating with food that will expand my waistline. What holiday is this? Why it is one where the focus is on nature in general and a rodent specifically. It is Groundhog Day, celebrated annually on February 2nd.
While groundhogs might be seen as cute by some, these small creatures simply don’t lend themselves to big holiday status. We don’t decorate for Groundhog Day. Even if we were supposed to do so, how would that be done? Gathering around the carcass of a rodent, regardless of how adorable, just isn’t the same as family time around the Christmas tree. And Groundhog Day activities are not clearly defined beyond watching a celebrity rodent emerge from his burrow. Since groundhogs hibernate for a few months during winter, perhaps we could pay homage to them by donning a sleep mask and taking a long nap. Not quite the same as roasting chestnuts on the open fire or creating homemade Valentines but probably much more relaxing.
Food is a hallmark of the big holidays. We have chocolates at Valentines, eggs at Easter, something grilled on the Fourth, turkey with all the trimmings at Thanksgiving, and cookies at Christmas. But what do you eat on Groundhog Day? Certainly not the rodent du jour. I’d hardly think it a celebration to eat any dish made with a rodent. According to my research, groundhogs ARE edible. Their meat is reportedly dark but mild-flavored and tender. Just don’t forget to move the scent glands on their backs and forelegs before cooking your groundhog stew. YUK!
Holiday duds are also a question mark for Groundhog Day. Other holidays have fairly distinctive clothing–bonnets for Easter (or at least your finest), red clothing for Valentine’s Day, anything red, white and blue for the Fourth, ugly sweaters for Christmas, and party hats for New Year’s Eve. Perhaps Groundhog Day should be celebrated in our PJ’s in honor of the rodent’s awakening from hibernation to see if any shadows are about.
Better yet, why don’t we just make Groundhog Day a day to celebrate nature? We can be glad that winter will be behind us at some as yet undetermined point in the near future, and rejoice that spring is ahead of us. Perhaps we could even learn a little about our rodent friend who serves as the bearer of good or bad tidings depending on what he sees–or doesn’t see.
Wouldn’t it be fun to stock up on information rather than to pile up credit card debt for just one holiday? I’ll bet it is more fun to learn that a young groundhog is called a chuckling than to look at a hefty bill for holiday purchases. How about squirreling away the fact that groundhogs are the largest members of the squirrel family rather than having to pack away tons of Christmas decorations? Instead of decking the halls, dying the eggs, and flying Old Glory, why don’t we marvel at how groundhogs dig complex burrows with several chambers, including a bathroom?
Sometimes simple pleasures are the best. Holidays can be joyous occasions, but often we don’t get to enjoy them because we are too busy with all the fluff we think must go with them to focus on the reason for the holiday. I challenge you to sit back, relax, and spend Groundhog Day 2016 merely pondering how much wood the woodchuck (a/k/a a groundhog) would chuck if he could chuck wood. And please–don’t eat the chuckling!