Welcome to Groundhog Day, a holiday where the same thing happens over and over


Today is Groundhog Day, a holiday celebrated in the northeastern United States, the day when, according to tradition, the groundhog emerges from hibernation. If it sees its shadow, then the frightened groundhog returns to its burrow, and cold winter weather will continue for six more weeks. It has never been more than a minor holiday, good for an amusing story on the evening news, but not much else.

I recall listening to a BBC World Service news report on the radio. They were reporting on a speech or press conference given by somebody or other, and the speaker commented on how any progress made during the day seemed wiped out by the start of the next day. "It felt like Groundhog Day." The speaker was not referring to the holiday but rather the 1993 movie with the same name.

Since the holiday Groundhog Day is not well-known outside the United States, the BBC announcer attempted to explain for the station's international audience, but ended up confusing the holiday and the movie: "Groundhog Day is an American holiday in which the same thing happens over and over again."

Comments (23)
  1. dave says:

    Also for British audiences: in the USA, the word "holiday" does not mean "most people don’t have to go to work on that day".

  2. Bill says:

    If you are not too far away it is worth traveling to Punxsutawney, PA for this holiday at least once.

    You are up at 4am to bus out to the woods with sixty thousand other people to see fireworks and a giant rat. It is a weird and wonderful experience.

  3. Keith Patrick says:

    The Brits have it sorta right in the sense that (almost) every GH day, the GH "sees its shadow". The only way for the event to be more pointless (other than the fact that it’s my father’s b-day) is for Hallmark to make cards for it.

  4. mpz says:

    I kinda like the movie better than that stupid tradition.

    The movie is heartwarming. The tradition (if you attend) just makes you freeze, heart or not.

  5. MS says:

    The best part about the movie is that it wasn’t even filmed in Punxsy.  I should know, I used to live very close to the town.  Of course, high school kids would always skip school to go drink at 6 in the morning in a crowd of crazy people.  So the schools made it an official day off.

    Though today, they have bigger things to celebrate, like the Steelers winning the Super Bowl (which is a religion in that part of PA).  Schools in Pittsburgh started 2 hours late because most Burgers would be too hung over to get their kids ready to go.  (I kid)

  6. Gwyn says:

    I suspect the BBC commentator was being ironic – it sounds like he was probably making a joke

  7. ERock says:

    Keith Patrick, see <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Groundhog_Day#Predictions_by_year">this for the actual predictions</a>. Hardly all in agreement.

  8. R. Bemrose says:

    MS:  The DVD commentary notes where it was filmed.  I was under the impression that most of the movie was filmed in Pux except for the park area where they held the actual Groundhog event.

    I could check the DVD commentary track tonight after I get out of work…

  9. Neil (SM) says:

    @ERock:  That page includes predictions for (arguably the copycats) groundhogs all over the northeast. Check out all of the predictions for Punxsutawney Phil, the (again arguably) original and official groundhog:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Punxsutawney_Phil

    Those results are much more in favor of 6 more weeks of winter.

  10. manicmarc says:

    Am I right, or am I right, or am I right?

  11. http://www.stormfax.com/ghogday.htm

    "Phil’s Winter prognostications have been correct only 39% of the time."

    Y’know, if he’s right 39% of the time, maybe we’re just interpreting him wrong.  If we flip the shadow/no-shadow indicator then he’s right 61% of the time.

  12. MS says:

    Bemrose: Most of the film was shot in Illinois, with a tiny bit shot in places like Indiana (PA) and Pittsburgh.

    http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0107048/locations

    Punxsy is actually too drab and run down to be part of a film.

  13. ArC says:

    "Groundhog Day is an American holiday in which the same thing happens over and over again."

    Yes, and we N Americans celebrate Groundhog Day <a href="http://improveverywhere.com/2003/03/22/the-moebius/">that way!</a>

  14. ArC says:

    Ergh, I didn’t realize or forgot that embedded HTML doesn’t work.

  15. Clarence Odbody says:

    "I suspect the BBC commentator was being ironic – it sounds like he was probably making a joke"

    Amazing how someone can read the transcript and think they can better interpret it than the person who heard it spoken.

  16. Anonymous Coward says:

    Well, you can make an ironic statement without intoning it as such. Some of the best British comedians are liked best for the way they keep their face straight during their act.

  17. Rick C says:

    A number of American TV shows have done homages to the movie Groundhog day, not unlike how sitcoms always seem to homage It’s A Wonderful Life if they last long enough.

    Stargate SG-1 did it, as did Xena: Warrior Princess.  There are probably more, but those occur off the top of my head.

  18. Ryan says:

    Should have posted this two days in a row. :(

  19. George Dean says:

    @Philip:

    That image of the chipmunk-like creature is probably from Caddyshack, another Harold Ramis film with Bill Murray in a supporting role. A particularly ornery gopher was destroying the country club golf course that was the film’s primary setting. Bill Murray’s character went to great lengths to exterminate it, which culminated in setting off a round of plastic explosives in the gopher holes. The final shot of the movie was of the gopher emerging unharmed.

  20. Philip says:

    The idea of Groundhog Day being a movie in which a day repeats over and over again is one of those basic things that I (as an entirely British person) have always known, but never really known *how* I know.

    I was 7 when the movie was released. I never would have seen it at a cinema, but I used to assume I must have seen it on TV a few years later. I always associated it with one particular image: a little chipmunk-like creature poking its head out of a burrow in the ground, facing leftwards on the screen, in some kind of grassy field with a blue sky above, and some shadows. It was quite a specific image.

    But I got the movie on DVD a few months ago and there was no scene that was anything like that. And the scenes that were there, and the characters and plot (beyond the basic "same day over and over again" concept), I didn’t remember at all. So now I’ve got no idea where that image came from, and I’ve got no idea how I learned the movie’s concept despite not having seen it – I guess it was just some kind of random diffusion of cultural knowledge.

  21. Peter Scheidler says:

    This has been a tremendously dramatic Groundhog Day. As reported in the New York Times, the groundhog at the Staten Island Zoo bit Mayor Bloomberg.  The story is at  http://www.nytimes.com/2009/02/03/nyregion/03groundhog.html?ref=nyregion.  The inevitable follow up story is at http://www.nytimes.com/2009/02/04/nyregion/04groundhog.html?ref=nyregion.

  22. R. Bemrose says:

    @Rick: Buffy the Vampire Slayer had one… I forgot which episode, but it was sometime during Season 6.

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