Bourbon Cowboy

The adventures of an urbane bar-hopping transplant to New York.

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Location: New York, New York, United States

I'm a storyteller in the New York area who is a regular on NPR's "This American Life" and at shows around the city. Moved to New York in 2006 and am working on selling a memoir of my years as a greeting card writer, and (as a personal, noncommercial obsession) a nonfiction book called "How to Love God Without Being a Jerk." My agent is Adam Chromy at Artists and Artisans. If you came here after hearing about my book on "This American Life" and Googling my name, the "How to Love God" book itself isn't in print yet, and may not even see print in its current form (I'm focusing on humorous memoir), but here's a sample I've posted in case you're curious anyway: Sample How To Love God Introduction, Pt. 1 of 3. Or just look through the archives for September 18, 2007.) The book you should be expecting is the greeting card book, about which more information is pending. Keep checking back!

Friday, February 02, 2007

Groundhog Day: The War On Candlemas

(I just wrote this over lunch and had to share it immediately. Hope it still has time to make the rounds...--D.)

It happens every year at exactly this time: on February 2, people all across America turn on the news as it is announced that the world’s most famous groundhog, Punxutawney Phil, either has or has not seen his shadow, and we’ll have six more weeks of winter or else we won’t. Everyone laughs, the news anchor returns to the day’s real stories, and no one gives it a second thought. It seems so harmless, so childlike! How could there possibly be anything wrong with the annual celebration of Groundhog Day?

But behind the pageantry and the parades, the groundhog carols and the groundhog-shaped cookies (or the furry hats or whatever it is they’re selling up in Pennsylvania), there’s a cancer eating away at our nation’s soul, and it puts the future of our country at risk. It is the duty of our citizenry to look this menace in the face and call it what it is: Satanic paganism. And just because it looks harmless doesn’t mean it is. Secular paganism has ruined Christmas, it’s ruined Easter, and unless Christians fight back, secular paganism will also destroy Candlemas.

Groundhog day actually dates back to Imbolc, a pagan Celtic fertility festival celebrating the return of spring. (And by the way, why is it that every pagan festival turns out to be about fertility and sex? It’s not only disgusting, it’s a horrible waste of creativity. No wonder the pagans never got around to making gunpowder.) As legend has it, on “cross-quarter days”---that is, days that are halfway between equinox and solstice, animals were thought to have the ability to predict the weather, and so people would watch for bears emerging from their den, marmots from their lairs, and even serpents---remind you of anyone?---from their dark holes. The way these animals acted were taken as omens for the future. There was often demonic possession involved, presumably. At any rate, Imbolc was no minor part of the calendar. It was one of the four “fire festivals” practiced by Celts, and is still practiced today by modern pagan "Wiccans" (witches).

In an effort to turn people away from false demonic gods who apparently wanted lots of sex going on, the Catholic church in the Middle Ages created the festival of Candlemas, which celebrates the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple, as mentioned in Luke. (February 2, you see, is 40 days after Christmas, which is when Jesus was born.) It turned what was just another alienating sex romp into a time of great reverence, and it brought the entire community together with one thing on their mind: The Christ child, Well, two things on their mind, I guess, because since winter was the time of chandlery, February 2nd was also the date for all the people to come bring the year’s candles and have them blessed by a priest. (Some people have written to inform me that signs of the fertility rites of Imbolc survive in the practice of having candles blessed, since candles are phallic symbols. In response, I can only say that I’m a pure-minded person, I have no idea what you’re talking about, and now I’d like to change the subject.)

But when was the last time you heard the Christ Child mentioned on Groundhog day? When have they opened the groundhog festivities with a scripture reading from Luke? Never! Exactly! Because the pagans know that if the truth comes out, the days of the groundhog are numbered. And it’s one of the only surviving dates in the calendar when people actually do ridiculous things like the pagans used to. Kill this, and they’re stuck with Arbor Day forever, and they’ll do anything to prevent that.

Of course, it’s not just the pagans behind all this. There’s Hollywood, of course. (“Groundhog Day,” a comedy starring Bill Murray, has deceived many people with its story of a man finding happiness by encountering magic and learning to love the groundhog he had heretofore instinctively avoided.) And the Pennsylvania Tourist Board. (Can you actually think of Groundhog Day without unconsciously humming “The Pennsylvania Polka.”) And there has been a spread of groundhog prognosticators in the last century, including Wiarton Willy in Wiarton Ontario, and New York City’s own Staten Island Chuck. (Note that practicing divination is strongly condemned by scripture even when it’s performed by human beings!) If this trend continues, there will be weather-predicting groundhogs in every state! (Each with a “cute” name to appeal to the children, but don’t you believe it!) Are we ready for a state-sponsored, MANDATORY Groundhog Day Celebration? Wouldn’t Satan love it if, in the name of a “silly” meaningless holiday, he could convince humans to mate with groundhogs? That day may come if we lower our guard---and it starts with a simple laugh (perhaps at a groundhog joke?) when the Lord commands us to be vigilant.

Don’t let the pagans win! Put Christ back into Groundhog Day! If there’s a Groundhog Day festival in your area, don’t let your children attend, don’t let them buy little groundhog ears, etc. It seems fun, but it sends the wrong message. And if, because of societal pressure or a previous unbreakable obligation, you are unable to boycott a Groundhog Day celebration, by all means go---but bring a little image of the Christ child, preferably one small enough to fit into a model temple that you can also bring. Read the first few chapters of Luke aloud, and if someone asks you what you’re doing, simply say, “I’m celebrating Groundhog Day in the original spirit of the Christian founders of this country. Would you like a candle?” Your point will be made, and maybe the idea will catch on! If not, at least you’ll never be invited again. And the safest way to celebrate Groundhog Day is to keep your body and soul as far away from groundhogs as you can.

(Next lesson: What should Christians do about Tuesday?)

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Blogger Jason Rohrblogger said...

My groundhog casts a long shadow...


2/02/2007 6:51 PM  

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