A major Park occasion, Groundhog Day has its roots deep in the Animal tradition of weather prognostication. The Park’s elaborate, all-day celebration of this important day attracts tens of thousands of Animals annually. But modern Park life has endowed the day with a political significance, as well. Park citizens, eager to discover what the new year has in store for them, await the annual Archons’ address, the first speech given by the 35 newly-selected Archons.
Today, we focus on Groundhog Day.
ORIGIN AND HISTORY
In the beginning, there was the Groundhog. One of The Park’s founding families, the Groundhogs staked out their territory in the prairie lands of The Park long before zoocracy was established.
As more Animals began to inhabit The Park, the Groundhogs settled into their rôle as Park Elders. Oftentimes, it was the Groundhogs who were consulted in Park matters, particularly those of weatherly import.
The First Prediction
The first prediction of weather in The Park was made on 2 February, 65 BZ (Before Zoocracy), by E. Bromley Groundhog. It was a casual prediction, made without fanfare, outside E. Bromley’s burrow. He predicted an early Spring. The Spring of 65 BZ arrived on 5 March. The present year is 2013 (31 AZ — After Zoocracy).
The following year, E. Bromley Groundhog made another prediction on 2 February. It, too, was an accurate prediction. In short order, it became an informal Winter tradition for Park Animals who were not hibernating to call on E. Bromley at his burrow in early February in order to hear his prediction for the coming Spring.
This went on until 57 BZ, when a delegation of Animals attended at E. Bromley’s burrow, only to discover that the venerable Groundhog had succumbed to old age. The delegation, at a loss for what to do, quickly appointed E. Bromley’s daughter and son to the post of “predictors.” In alternate years, the Groundhogs served as accurate “predictors,” until their children took over the job.
Eventually, the growing number of E. Bromley’s descendants caused there to be competition for the respected post of “predictor.” The Groundhogs began to engage in territorial wars and slanderous campaigns. In order to quell the rising tide of Groundhog anger, Park Archons decided to establish the title of Park Official Prognosticator of Spring (POPS) and to award it, every year, to their own choice of E. Bromley’s descendants.
Animals evolve. Politics evolve. New blood refreshes tired, old organs, old assumptions no longer seem viable, and old rules no longer hold sway. In 2003 (21 AZ), a group that called itself “Spring’s Unsprung Heroes” brought forth a legal challenge to The Park’s age-old practice of awarding the job of Park Official Prognosticator of Spring (POPS) to the descendants of E. Bromley Groundhog.
In his landmark decision in that case, Mr. Justice Augustus Dindon of The Park’s Superior Court wrote that “The Park’s current practice [of awarding the job on the basis of heritage] is unacceptable in a modern Park.”
Peabody Q. Groundhog was allowed to fulfill his duties as 2003 Park Official Prognosticator of Spring. Thereafter, the Judge ruled, the position would be decided in an open election held every year on 7 November. The date of 7 November was chosen as the date of the election because it allowed sufficient time for the winner to make preparations before the official hibernation date of 17 November.
Groundhog Day Today
Much has changed since the first elections were held for Park Official Prognosticator of Spring (POPS). In the last two years, The Park has welcomed the candidacy of Animals of other species and many believe it is only a matter of time before a non-Groundhog POPS makes the all-important prediction on February 2.
From the Personal to the Political
Groundhog Day has been an important occasion and a full-day holiday in The Park for many years. But, in 2005 (23AZ), the newly-selected Archons chose The Park’s Groundhog Day celebrations as the venue for their first official speech. Since that time, each new set of Archons has chosen to reveal its plans for the coming year in a speech given by the Chief Archon at the Groundhog Day celebrations.
For more information on The Park’s Groundhogs, we recommend:
Me and My Shadow: A Groundhog’s Memoirs
by Nigel T. Groundhog
Birch Bark Books, 200 pages
From The Mammalian Daily’s review
“This is not a book about family pride… It is a deeply-felt and honestly-written portrayal of the trials of Animal migration, of the pain and loneliness of specism, and of the exquisite joy of success and acceptance after many years of frustration. In a Beaverlike fashion, the author gnaws away at Groundhog stereotypes and lays bare for us the burden that is borne by the prescient mammal.”
For the full review, click here.
The archival material used in the preparation of this article was made available to The Mammalian Daily by the Association of Distinct Hibernating Animals of The Park (ADHAP). We thank them for their generosity. We also gratefully acknowledge the assistance of members of The Park Historical Society, Gertrude C. Owl, Dean of the Cuthbert School of Journalism, University of West Terrier, the Department of History, University of West Terrier, and the Idiosyncratic Hibernators of The Park (IHOP).