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Do They Know It’s Groundhog Day?**

February 2nd, 2013 · No Comments · Abu Dhabi, UAE

Yes, you’re officially old but vaguely hip (or were) if you recognize that headline as coming from a song from 25 years ago: “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” One of those “let’s get a bunch of celebrity singers together for a big, star-powered song to raise money for starving people somewhere” recordings.

Can’t say I remember the tune, but I imagine I could sing it if you hummed a few bars. OK, I looked it up on youtube, and here it is … and I can’t say I remembered any of it, aside from the chorus. “We Are the World” was a catchier mega-star song (and includes Michael Jackson when he still looked semi-normal).

But I digress.

It’s already Feb. 2 where I am, which led me to reflect on Groundhog Day … and how I’d guess 99 percent of the people in the country where I am living have no idea what Groundhog Day is.

Americans like to say Thanksgiving is “the most American of holidays,” but I think Groundhog Day has to be right there with it. Maybe a bit ahead.

Not many foreigners “get” the concept of Thanksgiving. Canadians, yes, because they have their own version of it. And a few Europeans, etc., know vaguely of this “Thanksgiving” thing because Wall Street is closed, among other things. That it has something to do with turkey and American football.

But Groundhog Day? Unknown, outside the states and Canada.

I could go into the office later today and start telling the Brits in the room about Groundhog Day … and they would laugh at me.

If I tried describing it to the local Arabs, or the Filipinos who run the coffee kiosk in the lobby, they could be forgiven for believing I was just making up a tall tale as I stood there.

Nobody but North Americans knows about Groundhog Day … unless they saw the Bill Murray-Andie McDowell movie of the same name from 1993.

Have to concede, Groundhog Day is a pretty ridiculous concept.

See, there’s an animal called a groundhog (actually a rodent, not a hog, but it does live in the ground) who lives in a town named Punxsutawney (no, I’m not making that up, too), in the U.S. state of Pennsylvania, and on Feb. 2 of every year he comes out of his hole (or little house, actually) and looks to see if he can see his shadow.

And stay with me. The point of all this is important in cold-weather climes. Because watching Punxsutawney Phil, as the groundhog is known (wouldn’t Punxsutawney Pete have worked better?) to find out for us whether winter is going to end any day now … or whether it will last another six weeks.

Really. No, really. The groundhog. Phil. In Punxsutawney. Whether winter will last another six weeks or not. Honest. It’s a holiday. OK, it’s noted. Everyone talks about it. Makes all the news shows. Seriously.

But if you didn’t know about this from the context of American culture, wouldn’t it all sound really, really unlikely? Sure does. Like Festivus.

The wikipedia entry I linked to, above, traces the custom of animals/shadows back to Europe and to various pagan practices.

All I know is, I guarantee you not 1 percent of the population of the United Arab Emirates knows what Groundhog Day is about. But almost every American knows.

That’s what gives it a shot as the “most American” of holidays. Yanks know about it … and no one else does. Isn’t that the definition of a truly American holiday?

I’ll be checking back to see about Phil and his shadow.

** As an homage to “Groundhog Day,” the movie, this entry is exactly the same as those in 2010 and 2011s, aside from this sentence and the two asterisks in the headline.


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