The Whistle Pig

Graphic by Clara Kight


By Mike Mallow

(To the Tune of The Circle of Life)
From the day we arrive in Pennsylvania,

And freezing, wait for the sun.
There’s more shadows to see,
Will they even been seen?
What to do when more Winter comes?
There’s far too much pressure to take in here.
More eyes on something that can never be found.
But the sun rolling low, casting not a single shadow.
Keeps us watching, wanting less snow on the ground.
It’s a circle of hype…

I get it – Winter is a mundane experience. It seems as a counter to the blandness and depression we experience in the stillness of the season, society tries desperately to throw every obscure holiday at it they can.

These days can range from the popular and poignant – such as Valentine’s Day, to the abstract and absurd, like Public Sleeping Day or Eat Ice Cream for Breakfast Day (which I personally refer to as Saturdays).

One of the holidays that leans more towards the absurd is Groundhog Day, which has maintained popularity for generations. It’s so ingrained in American culture that no one seems to stop and question its greater “what the heck” aspects.

Groundhog Day remains the product of a baffling superstition. The Pennsylvania Dutch believed that this critter emerging to see its shadow (or not) in the dead of Winter could somehow predict how much bad weather remained. As if the whistle pig’s decision could manage to accelerate the rotation of the planet’s tilt.

So what is it with these monotone badgers – these overweight ground squirrels – these Punxsutawney porcupines – that make perfectly reasonable people dress in tuxedos and top hats and stand out in the cold in early February?

It works.

For a brief moment we get to forget about the bitter cold to affix our attention to a rodent that may or may not have supernatural climate powers. Either way, it gives us a moment of hope that warmer days are coming, and on occasion, that’s exactly what happens.

It at least gets us on to the next holiday. Public Sleeping Day is Feb. 28, by the way — for those of you who have given up on the season entirely, and would like to give hibernation a try.