There’s probably a good chance you’ve seen the 1993 movie, “Groundhog Day” starring Bill Murray and Andie MacDowell. But in case you missed it, Murray plays Phil Connors, a grumpy, bad-tempered TV weatherman who is sent on assignment to a place he really does not want to go — namely to Gobbler’s Knob in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania to cover the annual groundhog-predicts-the-weather event on Groundhog Day that was started in 1887.
Once he’s there, Phil gets stuck in a kind of time warp loop and wakes up day after day to an alarm clock and then repeats varying versions of Groundhog Day until he finally changes his bad attitude and — as they say in the movies — “gets the girl,” played by MacDowell.
In the real-life version of Groundhog Day, tens of thousands of people visit Punxsutawney to witness the event each year on Feb. 2.
So what’s Groundhog Day all about? Well, traditionally, if the groundhog — named Punxsutawney Phil — comes out of his hole on Feb. 2 and sees his shadow, we’re in for six more weeks of winter.
No shadow? That means spring’s right around the corner.
Groundhog Day has its roots in ancient Christianity and the celebration of Candlemas Day, a day on which the clergy would bless the candles people used in winter and those used in the Festival of Lights on Candlemas.
Project Britain also explains: “2nd February is Candlemas Day. This ancient festival also marks the midpoint of winter, halfway between the shortest day and the spring equinox."
More stuff from the Brits, specifically from the Encyclopedia Britannica: “Candlemas — also called Presentation Of The Lord, or Presentation Of Christ In The Temple, or Hypapante — in the Christian church is a festival on February 2, commemorating the occasion when the Virgin Mary, in obedience to Jewish law, went to the Temple in Jerusalem both to be purified 40 days after the birth of her son and to present Jesus to God as her firstborn (Luke 2:22–38).
The Britannica entry on Candlemas concludes, “The festival was formerly known in the Roman Catholic church as the Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary and is now known as the Presentation of the Lord. In the Anglican church it is called the Presentation of Christ in the Temple. In the Greek church it is called Hypapante (Meeting), in reference to Jesus’ meeting in the Temple with the aged Simeon.”
You’ll see the basic elements of Groundhog Day in this old German proverb — except they used hedgehogs instead of groundhogs as their weather forecaster:
“If the hedgehog sees his shadow at Candlemas,
He will crawl back into his hole for another six weeks.”
Not particularly poetic, but you get the picture, right?
And of course, Texas — with its historic tradition of fierce independence and its legions of armadillos — isn’t about to be out done by some wimpy groundhog over 1,200 miles away from Dallas up the I-40 in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. No siree!
In an article for TXDot’s Texas Highways magazine Written by Lois M. Rodriguez we’re introduced to our version of Punxsutawney Phil, an armadillo named Bee Cave Bob.
She writes, “A group calling themselves the Knights of the Benevolent Raccoon kicked off the first Armadillo Day in 2012, with founding member Terry Boothe at the helm. Boothe owns property, officially designated by legislature in 2007 as “West Pole, Texas” (Highway 71 at Bee Caves Road in the Village of Bee Cave near Austin). There, folks wait to see if the armadillo, named Bee Cave Bob, emerges to forecast an early spring or long winter. Typically, Bee Cave Bob is a lot more optimistic in his predictions than Punxsutawney Phil, with spring usually nipping at our heels.”
Rodriguez sums up Texas’ Armadillo Day this way: “So what’s the formula? At 12:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 2, armadillo Bee Cave Bob is prodded out of his subterranean layer under the careful watch of characters such as Al Manac, Wayne Guage and Hugh Midity. If he stays out of the hole, then spring is near. If he returns to the hole, then there’s a lot more winter in store for us.”
So there you have it, folks. Whether you stick with the Punxsutawney Phil Gobber’s Knob celebration with all those Pennsylvanians, or do the RIGHT thing and “Remember the Alamo” by focusing on what Bee Cave Bob right here, deep in the heart of Texas has to say about it, it’s a pretty cool tradition and all the folks at the E-T hope you enjoy your version of it.