Punxsatawney Groundhogs & a Huemul-ish suggestion for Chile

I’m such a gringa sometimes. Cachando Chile friend Marmo (of Marmota & Marmotita fame) reminded me that today was Groundhog Day (which would be Día de Marmotas, if such a thing existed here), so of COURSE I went to the official Punxsatawney Phil web site and tuned in to the live streaming of Gobbler’s Knob’s biggest event of the year. For those who don’t know (US gringos, forgive them, despite 125 years of history, not all the world is aware of Phil’s utmost importance!)

Punxsatawney Phil, Groundhog's Day, February 2, 2011

The world's most celebrated groundhog, Punxsatawney Phil, makes his 125th appearance at Gobbler's Knob (PA) on February 2, 2011

Read on to learn more about the groundhog that made Punxsatawney famous…AND for a suggestion to add a bit of much-needed national silliness to Chile’s annual calendar…

I have no idea how the weather-predicting groundhog phenomenon came about, but the basic idea is that if he (the great Phil) comes out of his hole and sees his shadow on the morning of Feb 2, there will be 6 more weeks of winter. If not, there’s an early spring on the horizon. People have been gathering in Punxsatawney, Pennsylvania for 125 years to see what Phil has to say, and I must say I was amazed to tune in at 6:00 AM east coast time to see hundreds of people in 0ºC  weather dressed in silly (but warm) costumes with top hats & tails, groundhog gear and hopeful faces, waiting for the 7:25 AM pronouncement. Music, dancing, a basketball-spinning Harlem Globetrotter, the national anthem, and fireworks–yes, fireworks, at 6:30 AM!!

Punxsatawney Phil, Groundhog's Day 2011

Punxsatawney Phil checks for a shadow and conveys his findings to the President

Then at the appointed hour (7:25 AM), Phil’s official court arrived, Phil was gently taken from his burrow, whereupon he whispered his verdict to Association Prez Bill Deeley, and the proclamation was read aloud:

Groundhog Punxsatawney Phil makes his 125th proclamation

it's official. Punxsatawney Phil did not see his shadow on February 2, 2011 and thus an early spring is joyfully proclaimed!

Here Ye, Hear Ye, Hear Ye

Groundhog Day, February 2, 2011
Punxsutawney Phil was raised from his burrow
By the call of President Bill Deeley.
He greeted his handlers, Ben Hughes and John Griffiths.

After casting an inquisitive eye towards thousands of his faithful followers,
He proclaimed that the Steelers are going to the Super Bowl!

Back to the business at hand…
He surveyed his surroundings carefully and found that there was no shadow around,
So, an early spring it will be.

Then off they all went–joyfully on their way to official pancake breakfasts before heading to work, relieved that this long, hard winter will soon be over.

This is all so very, very gringo… and me, the big wuss, gets all teary-eyed and wistful about these silly traditions, and wonder why we don’t have similar sillinesses in Chile. So I tweeted for suggestions for a Chilean version that would predict how much rain we get in winter. Someone (@SouthAmericaME to be exact) suggested a guarén. A rat! Ick! And then it hit me.

I propose a huemul, Chile’s elusive little deer (find out more in this past post on the Huemul). In fact, it could be the “Huemul de Huelmo” (Punta Huelmo, to be exact), who could poke her little head out of the bushes at some point and let us all know if we need new boots for a rainy winter or should be filling up our cisterns for a pending drought.


I nominate the Huemul, one of Chile's national animals for the Chilean version of silly national weather games.

And then we could all invent some silly rituals (because frankly, I think we could use some more silly rituals around here) and excuses for having a good time “just because.”

What d’ya think… any takers out there?

38 responses to “Punxsatawney Groundhogs & a Huemul-ish suggestion for Chile

  1. As a confirmed enjoyer of silly and trivial, I think this is a great idea. If it is held in March or November, I’m in!

  2. Hi, Margaret.
    I agree that we need some silly rituals down here. A huemul is not a bad idea, but the really small Chilean deerlet is the pudú (I’m sure you’ve heard about it). I’m not sure about the animal on the glass cage in your picture: it looks like a huemul because of the horns, but it is rather small.

  3. @Jack Great! Although I suspect the best time would be mid to late June when the long winter is upon us and we could all use use a bit of silly cheer!
    BTW- do you celebrate May Day in your neck of the woods? For years my daughter and I trudged up to the top of the highest point in Syracuse at 6 AM to welcome in the spring with Morris Dancers, special cakes, and the first blooms of the year!

  4. @Raul- oops! you are exactly right! I was thinking of the pudú. That really is a huemul (stuffed) in the picture with a tiny pudú lurking behind. (I fixed the text to correct the error)
    So which would be better for this proposed holiday–a huemul from Huemol or a pudú from Putaendo? (not that there ARE any pudúes in Putaendo, but the name has a ring to it!)

  5. I am all for silly rituals. Here in Ontario we have a very similar tradition, without the pomp and ceremony of course (remember, we are Canadians) and it’s held in Wiarton, Ontario. His name is Wiarton Willie, and he (she?) failed to see his shadow also. http://www.torontosun.com/news/canada/2011/02/02/17122971.html
    I am going to ask my family in Chile if they know of any such goofy traditions.
    Americans must be the world greatest at keeping silly traditions alive, and I say keep it up gringos!

  6. I don’t know, a Guarén is big and hairy just like the Groundhog, maybe from the same family (sorry Marmo).
    Then again, it wouldn’t attract the followers as a Pudú would (a lot cuter).
    Looks like the Pudú wins this round.

  7. @John! I never heard of Wiarton Willy, but I bet he’s one of Phil’s cousins…you know how those rodents do multiply!
    @Rob-yes, guarenes probably ARE from the same family, but that’s the side we don’t talk about!
    So we’re leaning toward the pudú then?

  8. Ah, but Chile does have piano stairs at the Metro (part of the Fun Theory project)

    And this:

    Margaret, I want photos!

  9. Wow!! I wonder if these still exist! Does anyone know?? Looks like a bit of research is in order!!
    Thanks Laura!

  10. Margaret

    A friend of mine there says the piano stairs do-they move them from different metro stations. I happened to find them because someone on FB posted the Fun Theory link and my friend in Chile commented they have some too. A number of videos on youtube and a few articles on the internet about them. And I found the other slide as well.

    I’m sure you can find them with your sleuthing skills! 🙂

  11. OK! Let the sleuthing begin!
    Unfortunately, I don’t take the metro much anymore. As they keep expanding it (and new stations open tomorrow!) it has just gotten way too crowded and uncomfortable. A real shame because it is probably the fastest, cleanest, safest, and most efficient means of transportation in Latin America!
    I’ve sure never seen a subway as good in the US! (Well, maybe Washington, DC, but that’s been a while!)

  12. But, you are right about silly holidays. It’s odd but Chileans will take more time off for long holiday weekends yet here in the US, we put so much into our short but silly holidays. I think silly holidays could catch on there still. A few kids in my rural neighborhood there came trick or treating the last couple years I was there. But what a contrast-here in the US we draw it out half the night as well as the night with parties and treats.

  13. Yes, Chile certainly has more official holidays and there are plenty of unofficial silly days (for example, the Guachacas are doing something in La Playa de Las Torpederas de Valpo tomorrow) http://www.guachacas.cl/content/view/1308980/Este-jueves-3-Vuelve-el-Tim-Guachaca-a-la-carga.html#content-top
    But there is little organized at the traditional, regional or national level that I am aware of. And there’s something just plain odd about kids trick-or-treating here…maybe because it seems like something imposed rather than grassroots…

  14. Hi Margaret – I just sent you a jpg of the Metro piano stairs via email.

  15. So, no wonder cousin Phil is so full of himself in family reunions…
    Nice to know about Wiarton Willy, he never answers e-mails, and seems to be very similar to Phil.
    Distant cousin Guarén seems always related to filth and garbage, and smells so bad no one would ever want to take him from his burrow, or whatever. He´s a little antisocial, so the smiling old guy trying to get some weather prediction from him would probably get bitten and scratched.
    Huemul is a good fellow, but it would take 5 young Schwartzeneggers to raise him enough to make some prediction. He´s very shy also, there are just a few left, somewhere, and to have one just for this kind of ritual would alarm some animal rights people.
    Pudú is even more scarce than his cousin huemul, but he´s more easy going and smaller… Mmm the problem would be to get one of those guys, from a heavy endangered species.
    My suggestion would be this neighbor, known as “monito del monte” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monito_del_Monte) . This guy is a great fellow, very easy going and family oriented, is the only marsupial native to Patagonia rain forest, as far as I know, and he´s not in any danger as a species.
    Easy to lift from the ground for any old guy that wants to appear making the announcement of the coming of spring.
    Also, “monito” starts his mating season with the start of spring so it would be very popular among Chileans, and easy to promote.
    I would like to have a spring announcement ritual of some sort, in southern Chile we have the WeTripantu, a mapuche ceremony that marks the shortest day of the year, (between june 21st and 24th) and that all days that come after that will be longer and warmer.

  16. Sorry for the eternal post, and this short one

  17. Hi Marmo. I trust you’ve been celebrating this morning? Thanks for the update on the family tree, and very good comments on the Chilean candidate for silliness honors. And I like the Monito del Monte idea… we could call him Monito Moncho!
    So you’d go for a spring celebration? I was thinking of something to brighten up the winter. The Mapuche ceremony is anything but silly, and I doubt they’d appreciate the huincas usurping it, but maybe they’d let us respectfully share…

  18. Hi Margaret!
    I think this theoretical celebration should be an announcement of the spring, but it must be placed during late june or august, if we promote it during september, it would dilute with 18.
    I agree, Mapuche would stone us down if we us the WeTripantu, but we could use the calendar date and the motivation, the longer days and stuff =)
    I have a friend in Canada that is supposed to return to Chile in March, with some groundhog memorabilia for me and my gf. Now I know that it will be related to Will instead of Phil xD. They look the same so it doesn´t matter.

  19. We could certainly use something to announce spring (prior to September kites, trompos, empanadas & choripanes, that is!) But I think I’d go for some kind of festival of lights… is the monito del monte nocturnal by any chance? That might work!
    And sounds like an ideal honeymoon site for you two (not that I’m rushing you i to anything of course!) could be Punxsatawney!

  20. Yes, it is a little odd, the trick or treating. But imposed by the kids(maybe even a kids grassroots movement), the grownups were not so thrilled but how they love their children in Chile-so they went along with it. And the kids were really into the silliness of it all and were plotting for the next year. About 5 kids and 5 designated houses whereas said houses agreed to supply said children with candy. Fun.

  21. @Marmo – For a moment I thought your reference to “Nice to know about Wiarton Willy, he never answers e-mails, and seems to be very similar to Phil” was about me but I realize you must talking about your Canadian friend.
    Just in case, I always answer my emails.

  22. Hahaha honeymoon in Punxsatawney! Nice idea =)
    Monito del Monte happens to be the most nocturnal monito ever, isn´t this guy great?
    @John Carr. xD

  23. OK! I think we’re on to something… a February 2 honeymoon in Punxsatawney and a festival of lights with el Monito Moncho!

  24. Hi Margaret! Talking about silly things: What if we use a ”leopard” showing his shadow to Piñera!!!!!!!! Maybe will show us the future of his government!!

  25. Hi Lily… hahaha, good one!… but I think the leopard is already in Piñerextinción!
    For those who don’t know what this is about… yet another “Piñerism” (or Pinericosa)… from a speech in which our current prez warns about animals in danger of extinction in Chile, such as the leopard… um… sir? haven’t leopards been “extinct” in the Americas since, like, ALWAYS??? (oops!)
    For an earlier bit on Piñerismos (things the prez says) see:
    Marepoto & Tusunami: https://cachandochile.wordpress.com/2010/04/08/pinerisms-1-marepoto-tusunami/
    Viva Chile Mierda:

  26. But then again, Al Gore “invented the internet”, Sarah Palin can see Russia from her house and George W. Bush is against using “Nukelar” weapons, 🙂

  27. Hahaha… Every time I hear a new Piñerism, I remember all the old Bushisms! And Sarah Palin, well she’s just in a league by herself now, isn’t she!

  28. I will always openly and publicly show my admiration for Americans. There are a few things though that I fail to understand about them. How can so many people like Sarah Palin? Is ignorance of the most basic facts a reason for adoration, affection and applause? I don’t get it!
    Right after Bush’s re-election I saw the front page of an English tabloid that read in huge bold letters: How Can 48 Million People Be So Stupid?

  29. Yeah, well, that’s a whole ‘nother issue. I’ve been scratching my head since Reagan was elected–and RE-elected in the 80s!

  30. Bush Jr. got electedthe first time, despite the fact that Mr Gore had more votes. That never cease to amaze me, after that I studied the electoral system of the U.S. and formed my own opinion about it. Mr Bush being re-elected was a simply and directly bizarre moment. I just can´t understand it.
    My theory is that Americans in general tend to ignore or don´t care about what happens beyond their borders, so they don´t have the whole picture about some stuff their government does overseas (or just don´t care, or both), and are heavily influenced by the media (like FOX news), to the point of being a little naive sometimes, and therefore, they don´t perceive Mr Bush or others the same way the rest of the world does. I don´t want to offend anyone, I´m trying to understand. I this opinion seems to be too judgemental, I apologise in advance.

  31. I’d like to understand it too Marmo! I’ve been bewildered most of my life… and I think it goes far beyond what’s happening outside US borders. These decisions greatly affect what happens WITHIN the borders, and people just don’t agree about what is good for the country. In a nutshell, Republicans favor big business; Democrats privilege social issues. A very simplistic comment on my part on a very polemic issue.

  32. I think that in great part this whole ‘I-can’t-understand-why-people-do-this-issue’ boils down to education and basic reading habits. I once read that following graduation, most universities grads do not read one book per year. If college grads do not read, how much reading can be expected from the population at large?

  33. I agree that education is extremely important (being a big book nerd myself), but I think it goes farther than reading books. Much farther. Critical thinking skills (which one would hope are acquired by the end of high school–call me naive–but certainly by time one receives a university degree? OK, maybe that’s a lot to ask… but ask I will!)
    Regardless of my own somewhat leftishly skewed political position, there are intelligent people on all sides of the issues and basically no one is listening to anyone else… and frankly, I think that’s where the problem lies… when people are so bent on getting in an extra dig for their own cause that they not only cannot–but refuse–to see where the other side is coming from, we all lose. Big time.
    Time to reach across the aisle folks and try to get some real dialogue going… Compromise has got to be the key!

  34. You’ve heard this one before and it’s worth repeating. There are only 3 types of people …Those in the parade, those watching the parade and those who ask …what parade are you talking about? I do not believe for one second that as you say acquiring “critical thinking skills (which one would hope are acquired by the end of high school) is anywhere within the average person’s grasp.
    The U.S. ranks 37th in world education. There are way too many Americans asking “what parade are you talking about? And that is a shame.

  35. Hello, I am chilean and I happened to stumble upon your blog.
    Reading your observations in your various posts about my country (as a “gringa”) is very interesting and also refreshing, as most chileans I know of have a grim perspective of their own land and society. I have observed that most blogs written by foreigners in Chile show (for the most part) an uplifting point of view about our country. That’s nice.

    As for the post at hand, I remember watching that Bill Murray movie about
    Groundhog Day, so I have at least a small familiarity with the US tradition you described. However, I think your suggestion for introduction of our own chilean version of it would probably be considered rather outlandish – after all, you know us chileans: always so uptight about everything!

    Keep blogging on!

  36. Hi Alonso- Glad you like the blog and hope you’ll keep coming back for more!
    And yes, I know the likelihood of introducing a just-for-fun silly holiday into the Chilean calendar IS pretty outlandish… part of the reason I think we need one! It’s time to let a little Chilean hair down!

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