This week we celebrated, with typical American aplomb and over-the-top fanfare, Groundhogs Day (GHD). This event is commemorated in many locales, in many different levels of silliness, though folks in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania take top honors year-in, year-out with their top-hatted men rousting a poor, large rodent by the name of Phil from his hibernating slumber.
This is known, in celebrity circles, as ‘Sleep Photo-opnea’.
The routine is rather macabre, as, in front of a large crowd, assembled news cameras and various reporters, the portly (winter weight, hibernation burn not complete) Phil from his cozy den by the nape of the neck, and thrust him skyward for all to see. Think: the birth of Simba in The Lion King – minus the animals cheering him on.
Oh yeah, and we commit this public mugging of a defenseless animal ostensibly to ‘predict’ whether or not we will have six more weeks of winter or if spring is here.
There are greeting cards you can purchase to commemorate GHD. Of course, we also have greeting cards that congratulate people on their divorce, celebrate a promotion at work, or even a lottery win. (FYI – don’t send one of those. Seems too much like you want a cut. So I am told.)
Contemporary Americans, though, celebrate all things notable (and less so) with an Internet meme. These greeting cards for the twenty-first century are posted on Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat or Facetime. Or, if you are really old school, you email someone your meme.
(Dude, if you emailed a Groundhog Day meme, you have been in technology hibernation. I digress.)
People simply do not know what to do when their casual, “How’s it going” merits a casual but heartfelt, ‘’Pretty good. Oh, happy Groundhogs day.”
There are, of course, variations – when combined with physical salaams (fist bump, alternate shoulder hug, full on hug, hand jive handshake) can make for some delightful, purposely awkward encounters. Start with the hand shake, pull-you-in, bro shoulder hug and it goes something like this.
“Yo, man! Wazzup?”
“Dude! Groundhogs day! You on it?”
“Ummm, I guess, man….”
I have discovered that when you welcome people with GHD greetings, you disrupt the normal, suggestive, expected flow of personal discourse and the brain of the person on the receiving end of the greeting has a little brain hiccup, resulting in a mumbled, vocal ellipsis.
As amusing as this past GHD was, it is an event that only rolls around once a year. Ah, it then occurred to me that there are ample applications for incongruous holiday greetings in regular conversation over the next few months.
For example, Arbor Day is coming up…a lot (check local listings). People aren’t used to diving right into tree talk, so this one has potential.
“What’s up, birch?” is an eye-opener; you receive a startled look in response before adding. “Happy Arbor Day!”
Or you could try responding to “Hey man, how’s it going?” with something like, “I’m kick-ash, man! Happy Arbor Day!”
Then again, maybe I have been hanging around my urban high school students a bit too much.
There are other celebratory opportunities of conversational note coming up soon – though tread lightly in some cases.
National Organ Donor Day is February the fourteenth – Valentine’s Day. I am absolutely behind organ donation (as my driver license will attest) but seriously? Valentine’s Day? I guess I can see the alleged symmetry, but I would think there is definitely some mixed-messaging going on with ‘giving your heart’ to someone and ‘giving your HEART (or liver, or kidneys)’ to someone. Be cautious with any greeting having to do with human tissue.
February is also An Affair to Remember Month where we celebrate a romantic movie made in 1957. Approach this one with care as well – saying ‘hi’ connected in any way to the word ‘affair’ leaves way too much open to (mis)interpretation.
And not to muddy the waters further, but at the same time you get to play tidily-winks with your heart, know that the week of February 12 – 18 is International Flirting Week. I am not sure if this means this means the entire world revels in this particular pastime (though in France and Italy, this is less a holiday, more like, umm, Tuesdays) or if it means you should broaden your personal circle and flirt with someone from a different culture. Who knows, ‘flirt with an immigrant’ could easily become a ‘thing’ here in America, because that’s what American’s do in this post-industrial age. We no longer make things, but we make somethings ‘things’…
Maybe hauling cranky rodents out of bed to demand prognostications isn’t the worst of ideas.