Column: February is a month of groundhogs and greeting cards

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, February 4, 2003

February is a really weird month.

It is the month with the highest concentration of non-holidays. Sunday was one of them &045; Groundhog Day. Nowhere else on the calendar do we have a day dedicated to animal-related weather predictions &045; and this one is just ridiculous. According to legend, every Feb. 2, a rodent pops up through a hole in the ground to predict the arrival of spring. Allegedly, if he does not see his shadow, spring will arrive quickly. If he does, he becomes frightened, and we’re in store for six more weeks of winter. Either way, spring always arrives on March 21.

By the way, are there only two possible outcomes for this day? What happens if the groundhog casts a shadow, but doesn’t see it? Who knows, he might be looking for something to eat. Or, what if he does see his shadow, but isn’t afraid? Who’s to say he’ll see anything, anyway? You would think he’d be temporarily blinded from being underground so long, at least for a while. And what happens if he forgot to change his calendar, and actually comes out the day after? Is his prediction null and void? Do we have to wait an entire year to see when spring will arrive?

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Maybe we should start predicting other weather trends using animals, even as a joke, and see if it catches on. Who knows? Maybe a century from now, every Dec. 11 we’ll predict how much precipitation we’ll get based on whatever direction the crows are flying. Or, on Aug. 3, we’ll listen for the buzzing of the cicadas to see if we can expect a tornado. I could just picture some television meteorologist saying to the newscaster next to him, &uot;Well, the crows are flying north, so that means we’re supposed to be in for some snow.&uot;

Then we have Valentine’s Day, which is pretty much just a holiday created by the greeting card companies. That’s the day we’re supposed to remember that special someone with gifts of jewelry, candy and greeting cards. The retailers of those products help us to be romantic by having sales on those products to commemorate the holiday. Floral shops do kind of the opposite &045; roses approximately double in price at that time of year.

I don’t believe in Valentine’s Day, really. Romance is something that’s supposed to part of a happy and successful relationship already, anyway. If we need to be reminded to do something nice for our significant other once a year, it makes for a pretty shallow gesture when we do it. Nobody likes obligatory romance, and that is precisely what this holiday promotes. That, and profits for the retailers. I’m not against having a romantic evening on Valentine’s Day. But I am suggesting that it can be done without lining the pockets of those who profit most from it. What is special for you doesn’t have to be special for them.

Then there’s Presidents’ Day, which has me a little confused. In the past, we celebrated Washington’s Birthday and Lincoln’s Birthday. Now we have Presidents’ Day. Exactly which presidents are we honoring on that day? Just Washington and Lincoln, or all of them? Maybe each of our presidents should have their own day on the calendar. Special consideration would have to be given to presidents who served more than one term. Franklin Delano Roosevelt served four terms. Once you figure in the weekend, some people would be getting six days off.

Why is this even on the calendar, anyway? The only people who really get to observe it are people who work for the government or the U.S. Postal Service. To the rest of us, it’s just another day, except we don’t get any mail and we can’t go to renew a driver’s license. The U.S.P.S. is funded entirely by postage sales, but our taxes pay the salaries of government employees. I guess the reason we still have to work is to pay for them to have the day off.

I think I know why there are so many artificial holidays in February: There is nothing else going on. Still, it’s not a bad month. It means January is over, and there’s something to be said for that.

Dustin Petersen is an Albert Lea resident. His column, which normally appears Mondays, appears Tuesday this week.