In the film, Groundhog Day Bill Murray's character is named Phil of course, like the small furry animal. I don't think he asks anyone of absolution, since he is not asking to be forgiven for anything.

In addition to being a very funny film, I think it is a parable about love. Phil is unhappy and makes those around him unhappy as well. Every day of his life, he forecasts the future and doesn't care if he is right or not. He doesn't care about what happens to the weather, to his co-workers or to himself. On February 2nd he is stuck in a situation where he is literally stuck in time -the same day repeats itself no matter what he says or does. Like many of us, every day is exactly the same. After several failed efforts to kill himself-Life defies him. He decides instead to be the nicest person he can be and take joy in just the moment-he knows that falling in love with the Andie McDowell character will only last a day, a moment-but that's enough for him-and he tells her so-genuinely . That turns out to be enough. Enough for all of us, actually.

Groundhog Day is celebrated on February 2 each year in the United States and Canada. On that day tradition holds that the lowly groundhog will emerge from his winter hibernation in his den, look around, and determine whether or not it's time to wake up. If the sun is shining and he sees his shadow, winter will return for six more weeks. If the groundhog can't see his shadow, spring has arrived.

So....where did THIS idea come from? hmmm? It's actually based on a couple of traditions started in Europe. Candlemas day, a day of ritual purification for Mary, falls 40 days after the birth of Jesus: February 2nd. For centuries the custom was to have the clergy bless candles, which were then distributed to the people to be displayed in their windows to light up the dark of winter. Even then, it marked a milestone in the winter and the weather that day was important. According to an old English song:
If Candlemas be fair and bright,
Come, Winter, have another flight;
If Candlemas brings clouds and rain,
Go Winter, and come not again.
According to an old Scotch couplet:
If Candlemas Day is bright and clear,
There'll be twa (two) winters in the year.

The Pagan celebration of Imbolc, falling halfway between the Winter Solstice and the Spring Equinox also falls on February 2nd. The Pagans believed that if the weather was fair, the second half of Winter would be stormy and cold.

So, how did this tradition get to the United States and Canada? The Roman legions, during the conquest of the northern country, supposedly brought this tradition to the Teutons (Germans), who adopted it and concluded that if the sun made an appearance on Candlemas Day an emerging hedgehog,would cast a shadow, thus predicting six more weeks of bad weather. Germans were the earliest settlers in Pennsylvania and there was a short supply of hedgehogs there to fulfill the tradition. They did find groundhogs in profusion in many parts of the state, however. They determined that the groundhog, like the European hedgehog, was a most intelligent and sensible animal and therefore decided that if the sun did appear on February 2nd, so wise an animal as the groundhog would see its shadow and hurry back into its underground home for another six weeks of winter. The Germans recited:
For as the sun shines on Candlemas Day,
So far will the snow swirl until the May.

Groundhog Day grew popular in the United States during the late eighteen hundreds due to the efforts of Clymer H. Freas, a newspaper editor, and W. Smith, a American congressman and newspaper publisher. They organized and popularized a yearly festival in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania where a groundhog named Punxsutawney Phil was used to foretell how much longer winter would last. This very popular event is still being held and is called Groundhog Day. In Canada the name of the groundhog that is used to predict the length of winter is Wiarton Willy.


I have a five-disk DVD player with a title repeat feature. It'll just keep playing the same DVD over and over again. When, I thought to myself, could that possibly be useful?

I'm an athiest, but what you might call a philosophical atheist, maybe even a spiritual atheist if there was a way to purge the supernaturalism from the term. I feel that human drive for ritual that compels religious holidays. But I always feel guilty partaking, like I'm faking.

We live long lives, with a lot of possibility for improvement, for learning, for helping others and coming to feel at home in hte world. And we all need time for self reflection, to see our lives well spent, our lessons learned, our friends made, to know that our time here was not wasted, that something had become of it. That we are not stuck in one place, and every day was exactly the same, and nothing we did mattered.

There's this movie called Groundhog Day...

I like throwing parties.

Thusly, in 2000, I claimed my secular holiday: Groundhog Day. I get up early the Saturday after Groundhog Day, and at 6am, I start the ole DVD player repeating that most self-reflective of all movies, Groundhog Day, until 6 the next morning. Ritually re-creating Phil's repetitively re-lived day of enlightenment, by ritually replaying its reproduction. I gather my friends about me this day, to reflect and celebrate, to make my accounting of what has been gained and lost this year. To reflect on lessons learned, and changes made, on what this cycle of days has brought to me, on who has gone and who has come anew. And, of course, to party and drink and enjoy each other's company.

And then return to living for another year. Knowing, as Phil does, that I am bound to relive this same Groundhog's day again, for the rest of my life. Each one subtly different, each one fundamentally the same. And, I hope, each one punctuated by growth.

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