Hendricks County Flyer, Avon, IN

February 1, 2013

Let the celebration begin

By Rebecca Todd
CNHI

— As I write this, I am anxiously awaiting an important day in most American's lives. I'm looking forward to the parties and the cheers but am also wondering, as most are; who will win? Who will lose? I can't wait for the day to arrive!

There's always the big build up; the opening ceremonies, the speculation, the party preparation. It's an exciting time for all of us.

Then suddenly, the time has arrived! The cheers are deafening as the players take the field. The excitement is palpable in the air.

All predictions thus far are for a win for the winter to be short and spring to be early. The forecasts calls for overcast weather and that means that Punxsutawney Phil will not see his shadow and therefore ...

Wait, what? You thought I was talking about something else? What?

Oh, right. There's some kind of big football game coming up. I forgot about that. No, I'm talking about Groundhog's Day, of course. What could be more exciting than Groundhog's Day?

Okay, you got me. I really don't give a rip about Groundhog's Day. I've always wondered who first thought of sitting around waiting for a bucked-toothed rodent to poke his head out of the ground and why they thought it had anything to do with spring.

It turns out Groundhog's Day is kind of like a fruitcake. It's a convoluted mess with bits and pieces of several old beliefs chopped up and mixed together to form a new belief.

Belief number one comes to us from the Delaware Indians who believed that "their forebears began life as animals in Mother Earth and emerged centuries later to hunt and live as men." The "Wojak" or woodchuck, a.k.a. groundhog, was believed to be their ancestral grandfather.

You just can't make this stuff up.

Enter the Germans, who had long celebrated Candlemas on Feb. 2 when they all lit candles and placed them in their windows. Candlemas is the midpoint between the winter solstice and the spring solstice and it was believed that if the day was overcast, spring would arrive early and if it was sunny, winter would continue.

Why did they think this? It comes from a pagan celebration known as Imbolc, which I really don't want to get into here. Mainly because it confuses me as it involves ... um, something about a giant doll, a saint, and a pregnant sheep. I'm sure you see the connection.

So to make a long story short, the Delaware Indians and the Germans both settled in Punxsutawney, Pa., and all these beliefs were mixed into the batter that eventually evolved into Groundhog's Day, when we all light candles, make giant dolls, and revere pregnant sheep and the sainted, grandfatherly, buck-toothed Wojak while we wait for spring.

It disturbs me, therefore, that the American tradition of a giant football celebration has been moved dangerously close to Imbolc Candlemas Wojak Day. Now we have to add cheering, tackling, nachos, and chicken wings into the mix.

A hundred years from now, people are going to be very, very confused about Feb. 2.

- Rebecca Todd is a freelance writer and the author of the book "What's the Point?" available at booklocker.com. Contact her at btodd@tds.net.