Punxsutawney Phil must be stopped. The lovable little groundhog must be stopped.
You know Phil. Every Feb. 2, Groundhog Day, he is yanked from a tree stump in Punxsutawney, Pa. If he sees his shadow, his organizers allege, there will be six more weeks of winter. If he doesn’t, spring will be just around the corner.
Millions have enjoyed this primitive ritual for years, but now there’s a problem.
Groundhog Day evolved from Candlemas Day, a Christian tradition commemorating the purification of the Virgin Mary. As this tradition evolved in Germany, it got ever more colorful.
Germans soon believed that Candlemas Day could also predict the weather. Somewhere along the line they began yanking a hedgehog out of a tree stump, and the tradition was born. When German immigrants settled in Punxsutawney in 1887, they brought the tradition with them.
Now we have a problem.
How, in this day and age, can any government body impose on our diverse society any celebration that has its roots in a Christian faith? Aren’t the people of Punxsutawney providing their de facto support of one religion over the others? Isn’t their outmoded event offensive to those who practice no religion?
Isn’t this annual event, then, out of sync with the American tradition of separating church and state? If Santa Claus and Christmas trees are being banished in public squares, how can Groundhog Day not follow suit?