A Short History of Groundhog Day

Defeat of the Groundhogs!On February 2, it is customary in Canada and the United States to celebrate an annual tradition wherein we allow a chubby burrowing rodent to forecast the weather. This is an important ritual, but not for the reason that many people think.

Many believe this “holiday” can be traced back to an ancient pagan ritual called Imbolc, which was duly adopted by early Christians and turned into Candlemas. (This means Mass of the Candles, in which the clergy would perform ear candling on the most hairy-eared and disgusting member of each parish, in a metaphorical recreation of the time when Jesus performed the Ear Candling of Jergomethia, cleaning the aural canals of a score of waxy hermits, and curing them of their deafness.) Finally, this holiday or “holy day” was further perverted by the German-speaking populations of Pennsylvania, who fused the day with European folklore and a desire to celebrate fersommling, a kind of Pennsylvania Dutch orgy. (Obviously, these depravities are only celebrated by the Fancy Dutch, and eschewed by the more plain sects, such as the Amish, Dunkards and Mennonites.)

However, there live amongst some of the Elders in these plain sects of the Pennsylvania Dutch — or P-Dutch, as they are known on the streets of Philadelphia — the horrible, truthful truth.

Once, North America was largely ruled by these underground rodents of the family Sciuridae, and though they lived largely in peace with the native human populations, the arrival of the white man marked the end of their peaceful co-existence. For when the early settlers began tearing up the forests, and plowing the meadows where the groundhog, or woodchuck, lives, war between all men and the Tcuckbar (as the groundhogs call their own race) began.

The Whistle Pig, preparing to strikeAmongst the Elders of the Dunkards, this is known as the Grundschwein Zehekriege, or literally, “groundhog toe wars”; this name is taken from the favourite martial tactic of the Tcuckbar, which is to sever the large toe of a human being, and thus cause him to lose his balance, fall down, and then have his carotid artery savaged. Normally, groundhogs are peaceful herbivores, but when roused, they can eat up to twice their own weight in human flesh.

It is when they are thus engorged, looking almost like a bristly boar that they are most dangerous. Indeed, one of their other names is taken from this state: while in boar mode, the average groundhog will make a high-pitched sound, from whence their nickname, “whistle pig” derives.

During this dark period of the war, many humans took to fighting one another, or slaughtering local wolf populations, for no-one could believe such excessive butchery could be done by the lowly woodchuck — and the groundhog attackers were always disappearing into holes or climbing trees before humans could spot them. (You didn’t know they could climb trees, did you? Then you probably don’t know about their limited psychokinetic ability to move small objects such as golf balls, musket balls, and human eyes.)

Eventually, through an uncharacteristic adoption of empiric method the P-Dutch Fußführer (or “Foot Leader”), Johann Suppetrinker, figured out it was the groundhogs, and the war turned to the favour of the human forces. Unfortunately, most humans outside the P-Dutch Confederacy did not believe Suppetrinker’s explanation, and it took many years for the humans to gain control of the situation.

Ritual humiliation of defeated groundhogTo this day crack forces of Amish and Mennonite Grundschweinmörders (Groundhog Killers) spend part of every winter season hunting down resistant forces of the dangerous Tcuckbar groundhog clans. Luckily, evolution has done the rest of the work for us, and the remaining non-sentient species is largely harmless, except to the occasional horse or golfer.

But this is why we celebrate Groundhog Day, and the annual humiliation ritual surrounding it. Otherwise, what other explanation could there be for the pomp and elaborate circumstance of this winter rite? Punxsutawney Phil and Wiarton Willie are not terrified by their own shadow, so much as the deep racial memory of seeing the figure of an Amish Grundschweinmörder, poised to spit him on a finely crafted spitzerstock. (Pointed stick.)

And they’ve only been slightly more accurate at predicting the end of winter than the Farmer’s Almanac, the P-Dutch edition included.

Alltop doesn’t believe that Wiarton Willie even exists. Picture of ritually humiliated groundhog courtesy of Scottobear. Brilliant artwork of Whistle Pig preparing to strike by ~Artsammich. Defeat of groundhog poster by Northfield.org.

Doug the neurotic invents a corollary on his daily commute

Revenge of the chickenOkay, I’ll admit it. I’m freaking out.

I ate at Wendy’s last night, and then I’m reading the paper today — yeah, like I do everyday on the bus — and so I’m reading the paper, and what do I see? Bird Flu! There was another breakout of bird flu in a freakin’ chicken farm in Canada!

Yeah, I know you can’t catch bird flu from a Spicy Chicken Sandwich, but still. I’m just saying that it’s a sign. It’s just a matter of time. That or the polar bears. Where the hell are they going to go when the last of the polar icecaps melt? The motherfuckers are either going to drown or head south and look for a little protein in Doug form. Spicy Doug Sandwich. Did you know the polar bear is the biggest land predator in the world? Yeah, and they aren’t going to catch bird flu. Not to mention the terrorists. If they don’t get me than for sure some crypto-Nazi is going to rendition me to somewhere where water-boarding is like foreplay.

Holy shit! It says here that some of the people working with the chickens caught Bird Flu. Oh God, I don’t want to catch BIRD FLU.

Why the hell is everyone looking so calm? Look at that dude. He’s just listening to his iPod, pretending that we’re not all about to die from an anthrax attack. It says we will right here on page three.

The bus is awfully slow today. I wonder if that’s because the driver is working with the terrorists, or maybe he has the beginnings of BIRD FLU and it’s slowing him down? All these stories keep saying it’s only a matter of time until the virus leaps from poultry to humans. Just like the terrorists. They’re going to do another big attack.

Wait.

They haven’t, have they? Maybe if the media is really covering a story like this, that reduces the chances of the thing actually happening. What if there is some sort of inverse relationship to disaster and the amount of fear churned up by the media: the more ink and airtime devoted, the less likely there will be a disaster?

Oh shit. What if there was some kind of OTHER relationship, like a corollary to Murphy’s Law? What is that? Anything that can go, will go wrong. No, that’s Microsoft’s motto. Anything that can go wrong, will.

Like, my bus is late. It can be late, so it is late. I’m going to have to run to catch my transfer. Bastards.

What if there’s some kind of corollary to Murphy’s Law? Anything that can go wrong, will, unless the media gives it saturation coverage … in which case, something else will go even more horribly wrong. Not bad. Call it Doug’s Corollary.

Finally, the bus is at my stop. Come on lady, move. I got to run.

Wait! If that is true, what is worse than BIRD FLU?

Dashing now. I’m still fast. Not young enough to fight off BIRD FLU, but still quick.

Oh my God. Ohmygodohmygod, EBOLA is worse than BIRD FLU!

Oh God, I’m going to catch some new strain of EBOLA and bleed out from they eye sockets and shit! It’s going to wipe me out like a —

[bus]

The End

Alltop is a busload of fun. Photo by Mark Lorch. Originally published in 2007, so you can see how it’s the specific fears that change, not the general tone of the media.