It was an accident, the legend goes. When the first University of Dallas Crusaders demanded of our university elders a celebration which could be made unique to UD, it was sarcastically suggested that the students celebrate the feast of a brown, mousey creature coming out of the ground and looking for his shadow. The words were taken literally and the Feast of Groundhog became ours.
Groundhog has now become an established part of our culture. The freshmen listen anxiously to the tales of ancient seniors, who keep the legends alive through constant, embellished retelling. We celebrate the festival through the arena-like sports of our 5K, rugby match and, fiercest of all, the powderpuff game. When the long-awaited night of the festivities finally arrives, we all gather at some unfamiliar (although this year fairly close) location, where we are joined by all those who serve our great university. For one magical night, the entire campus erupts in one concentrated location, and together (if you are in the central mosh pit, probably too close together) we all celebrate the great “accident” that is Groundhog Day.
But, perhaps you believe with C.S. Lewis’ venerable Puddleglum, from the Narnia book series, that “there are no accidents.” As whimsical as its beginning may be, there is almost no more UD-ish a holiday than Groundhog. UD-ers are notorious for unearthing things which have lain dormant and buried during the storms of history. Ancient epics, primordial truths, dead languages – the fruitful soil of civilization, which the recurring winters of the human story periodically bury under a barren blanket of snow. The world needs groundhogs. The groundhog (and so too the UD student) must rise through this frozen barrier and bring to the world a promise of a new spring, a culture of life. It is not enough to surround oneself with the Core and the people who study it with you. Rather, one must courageously bring its fruitfulness to the light of day and share it with others. It is a formidable task. Yet, the Crusader spirit that also permeates the UD charism does not give in to a fear of shadows.
Dear reader, please celebrate this Groundhog Day. Please eat food (especially if you are drinking; don’t drink on an empty stomach), spread cheer (to one and all) and sing songs (loudly, and preferably of the Irish character). For Groundhog Day is a day of rejoicing and renewal. It is a feast of hope, of camaraderie and of a promise to those who went before us that we shall continue their legacy of popping up unexpectedly, even in hostile climates, and declaring a promise of good things to come.
“If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.” – J.R.R. Tolkien