Reflecting on Groundhog traditions

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Undergraduates and visitors gather at the McNab Rugby Pitch for the 2018 annual Powderpuff football and rugby games. Photo courtesy of Clare LoCoco.

Lines Composed a Few Days Before Groundhog:

*Disclaimer* this is not a poem.

One of the things I look forward to the most about coming back to the University of Dallas for the spring semester is that Groundhog is right around the corner. As I anticipate what many people call “the happiest time of the year,” some serious nostalgia sinks in, thinking about past Groundhogs and realizing that this will be my last one as an undergraduate. I’m a senior, and the four years at this quirky school have taught me to value all the oddities and traditions that we hold so dear.

My comprehensive exams for the English major are coming up — the first round was mercifully over and done with yesterday — and I came across “Lines Composed a Few Miles Above Tintern Abbey”  by William Wordsworth, which I’m making my motto for Groundhog:

“While here I stand, not only with the sense / Of present pleasure, but with pleasing thoughts / That in this moment there is life and food / For future years.”

I hope that when Saturday rolls around and I’m in the park with my friends, food, and a beer in hand, I will have a memory that isn’t simply that particular moment, but one that is charged with memories of the week, of the day, leading up to that very moment. That’s the beauty of memories — they keep experiences alive and present and are simply waiting to be recalled to mind.

In order to make this Groundhog the most memorable to date, it’s important to remind yourself about what actually drives the entire week leading up to the Party in the Park: community.

While the Party at the Park is the main event, it has been tradition for upperclassmen to open their apartments to the student body throughout the week. Groundhog week strengthens the bond between upperclassmen and underclassmen. It doesn’t matter what year you are, because everyone is welcome.

We look forward to meeting new people and catching up with the newly-returned Fromers; we exchange stories about favorite professors; we end up talking about how we wish we were back in Rome, or how we can’t wait for you to go to Rome. Every night of the week provides an opportunity to take a break from homework and meet people that you might never meet otherwise.

So, the first piece of advice is to participate in every opportunity offered by the school throughout the week. You can take a break from studying — I promise Braniff will still be there when you come back.

The second piece of advice pertains to Groundhog Day itself.

For starters, if you have a plan of how the day is going to go, throw that out the window.

I mentioned that Groundhog week channels the spirit of community that is so special to our university. But this culminates on Saturday. Groundhog Day brings together students, alumni, friends, family, Raj and really anyone — I once saw a worker at Texas Thrift wearing a Groundhog sweatshirt, and he said he had a blast when he went the previous year — in a series of events that last the whole day. While part of the fun is hanging out with your friends throughout the day, the other part is meeting people you would otherwise never meet. Enjoy those random conversations that will start in the oddest places, like PDK.

Four in the afternoon will roll around and you might find yourself in an apartment that you don’t recognize, but you know you’re in the right place because you’re surrounded by a sea of people wearing the same exact sweatshirt. That’s OK. UD is probably one of the few places where you can feel safe in an unfamiliar apartment just by looking around and knowing that everyone is there for the same reason: to have a good time and make great memories — why else would anyone spend $45 to buy a bulky sweatshirt that has a cheesy quote on the back about eating and drinking?

People say that Groundhog is a marathon, not a sprint, and I agree. Every day picks up momentum as more and more people flock to Irving to celebrate Punxsutawney Phil and uphold a tradition that is more than fifty years old.

Ride the wave — and I hope you find yourself on Saturday night not only enjoying the moment but savoring the week that got you to the park.

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