In just 6 days our beloved Phurry Phriend Phil will emerge from his den to predict either a longer winter or an early spring. Do you have your calendar marked for this auspicious occasion? We do. That’s right folks, there are people who mark their calendars to celebrate Groundhog Day. Some of these people plan trips to Punxsutawney, PA to not only watch Phil emerge from his den, but to partake in the day long annual festival that includes live music, food and fun. I know some of these people. I am related, by marriage, to some of these people.
My introduction into this well-known but sparingly celebrated holiday came from my Father-in-Law who was a huge follower of Punxsutawney Phil. Each year he would write a letter that always included a poem and a small monetary gift in honor of Phil, and send it out to his family. The poem usually would be something like this:
“Once again, the time of year is upon us. Once again, we turn our thoughts westward to the humble village of Punxsutawney. Once again, we look with confidence forward to the hour, knowing that we will not be disappointed. As in the past, we know that he will come forward from his den to seek the sunlight that enables him to see the shadow. As in the past, the pure punctuality of Punxsutawney portrays the persistent performance of Phil as he pops from the portals of his pen, perchance to peer upon his shadow. Enjoy this momentous occasion!” – JPM.
In addition to the much-loved poems, there would be a celebratory dinner held in honor of Punxsutawney Phil on February 2nd. The dinner was held at a local steakhouse in Wayne, and some years the family wore homemade Groundhog hats. At first, I thought my husband was joking about these dinners, but I found out very early on in our relationship that Groundhog Day was no laughing matter. His father treated this day as if it were a national holiday that needed to be celebrated and he strongly encouraged others to do the same!
As their family grew to include grandchildren, the poems came via email and the dinner tradition continued, but at Pizzeria Uno in Paoli – minus the hats but with a groundhog cake at their home afterwards!
As with most things, we didn’t realize how special these poems and celebrations were until they were gone. My Father-in-law was one of those people that could light up a room with his smile and his big bear hugs on any given day, but on Groundhog Day those smiles and hugs always seemed bigger. There isn’t a Groundhog day that goes by that we don’t wish he was still here to celebrate the momentous occasion with us.
I’m not sure anyone really knows how this day grew into such a big holiday for their family, but I do know that it is one of those traditions that has continued to help our family stay connected. It’s been 19 years since that last poem was sent by father-in-law, but my husband’s 7 siblings, 4 nieces and 2 nephews (who are spread out across several states), come together every February 2nd (via e-mail) first thing bright and early in the morning. The email chain usually includes one of Grandad’s poems, a picture of Phil, or even a newspaper article about Groundhog Day events, along with all the ways each of us will be celebrating the day to keep this treasured tradition alive.
Coincidently, as I finished writing this piece an email came from my sister-in-law inviting those of us who still live on the Main Line to meet at a local eatery in Wayne, on February 2nd, for dinner in honor of Phil. So, if you also happen to be dining out on Groundhog Day, and you see a large group of people (possibly with homemade hats who are celebrating someone or some adorable furry creature) don’t think we are crazy, but stop by and say Hi!😊.
I know my father-in-law would be very proud and happy that we continue to honor his legacy along with Phil’s – especially this year! 😊
Happy Ground Hog Day, and Cheers to an Early Spring,