If given the option, groundhogs would probably choose to sleep through their own holiday. While groundhogs hibernate for different periods of time depending on the region and climate, none of them wake up prior to late February or March, meaning that groundhogs are being roused from their essential sleep cycles to participate in these silly meteorological rituals each February 2nd.
In the case of the country’s most famous groundhog, poor Punxsutawney Phil doesn’t get to hibernate at all. He’s held in captivity and kept on display in the local library until the beginning of February when he is paraded in front of thousands of people and camera crews.
The whole ordeal is unnatural enough for PETA to denounce the holiday. The organization urges people to leave groundhogs free to be the animals they are and use a robotic groundhog for the ceremony. To be fair, it seems like a robot would cast a shadow just as easily as an actual groundhog.
For whatever reason, people put a lot of stock into whether the groundhog predicts six more weeks of winter or an early spring. Ultimately, however, you can’t blame the groundhog for his prediction anyway. Not just because the groundhog never stipulated that the sight of his shadow doubles as a weather forecast, but because the truth is it doesn’t even matter if the groundhog sees his shadow. Humans decide the outcome in advance, well before it’s even known whether it will be sunny or cloudy on February 2nd.
If you’re confused as to why people would rig the outcome of something so seemingly trivial, ask the “Inner Circle,” the ominously-named group that tasks itself with predetermining the groundhog’s prognosis. The “shadow” group, if you will, is comprised entirely of old white men who don top hats and suits. The members look like a stereotypical portrayal of the 1%, and it doesn’t take a conspiracy theorist to crack wise about how the elite feel compelled to manipulate even a third-tier holiday. Go figure that these posh white men think they can control nature and refuse to trust a groundhog to do a job as simple as reflecting or not reflecting a shadow.
And — as a fitting conclusion to this allegory about the elite’s meddling in nature’s affairs — it turns out that the Inner Circle’s predictions are only accurate 39% of the time. That’s pretty dismal. In that case, they might as well just toss a coin. Or, you know, just get a robot like PETA suggested and let hibernating groundhogs stay asleep as nature intended.
Photo Credit: April King