Friday morning, tens of thousands of people will gather in a clearing in north central Pennsylvania before dawn.
They’ll crowd around a stump and pluck from it an immortal rodent with a secret elixir habit and a soothsayer’s abilities.
A group of men from an “inner circle,” all dressed like Mr. Monopoly, will huddle around the animal and listen to it speak a special language. They’ll translate the words onto a parchment and recite them aloud for the crowd, which will either hiss or shout the rodent’s praises, depending on what is said.
Then, everyone in Punxsutawney will go back to drinking.
This is Groundhog Day, and it is objectively the most batshit crazy thing ever conceived of by humankind. It is a fever dream come to life, and one of Pennsylvania’s proudest traditions. Here, we attempt to prove just how crazy it is.
First, some background: Groundhog Day, as we know it, was actually started by the Pennsylvania Dutch and has been observed here since at least 1887. According to History.com:
Groundhog Day has its roots in the ancient Christian tradition of Candlemas, when clergy would bless and distribute candles needed for winter. The candles represented how long and cold the winter would be. Germans expanded on this concept by selecting an animal — the hedgehog — as a means of predicting weather. Once they came to America, German settlers in Pennsylvania continued the tradition, although they switched from hedgehogs to groundhogs, which were plentiful in the Keystone State.
Since then, the holiday’s popularity has grown along with its folklore. Here’s where things get weird…