As a strange, memorable (or not, depending on how much one drinks) tradition, Groundhog celebrations bring members of the UD community together. With their diversity of experiences, comes a variety of perspectives:
1. They’re carrying a boombox and their “liquid courage” (an ever-emptying case of beer), gathering more disciples by the hour as they walk through Tower Village. They cheer at the free cups of water outside one apartment, crowd around PDK Foods, swing on vines at TGIT, joke about sending Snapchats of each other puking, chuck Jell-O shots onto neighboring porches, impale beer cans on rusty fences and sing chants about the University of Dallas.
They are the Dionysian bottle-smashers. Groundhog is their holiday.
2. There exists a widely accepted myth about the origins of Groundhog: students haranguing then-President Donald Cowan about the university’s lack of holidays, then taking him at his word when he told them to go celebrate Groundhog Day, for all he cared.
3. Students, too, have created their own Groundhog mythos in the form of the “Groundhogiad,” composed in the first weeks of the spring 1984 semester.
“The ‘Groundhogiad’ was a mock epic composed in the student apartments,” English professor Dr. Greg Roper said. “It was written by one Joseph Patrick Kelly with the help of some roommates.”
Like the Odyssey, the “Groundhogiad” opens with a Telemachia, following the satirical scholarly foreword, in which the Groundhog searches for Fougi’s son — UD legend Jim Fougerousse.
The cover, styled with English words written in Greek letters, depicts two drunk figures beside a keg laughing at the idea of going to class, proving that little has changed about the spirit of Groundhog since the ’80s.
4. While the spirit of the holiday has remained the same over the years, the logistics have changed, according to ’86 alumna Laura Reilly, who remembers when the event was not school-sponsored, lasted from sunset until sunrise and took place on a school night.
“Basically, you drank, danced to great tunes … were happily astonished when a hot dog or burger would appear and someone offered you a bite … talked philosophy-theology-smack, probably snoozed or momentarily lost consciousness … drink till sunrise, more or less,” Reilly said. “Going to class the next morning was actually one of my favorite, tiny memories. Everyone looked like death warmed up in their sooty, smelly gear.”
Reilly added that Groundhog celebrations in Rome also used to be much wilder.
“There was now a legendary happening: apparently someone tipped off the Italian authorities that there was an unruly bunch of kids doing something out there that night,” Reilly said. “When the polizia arrived with their uzis, Dan Harkins, dressed as the furry [groundhog] and standing on a jagged piece of cement from the ruins, was obliged to take off his head and cradle it in his arm whilst trying to explain what was up.”
5. Across national borders, generational gaps and cultural boundaries, traditions like Groundhog have come to resemble one another, leading to unexpected intersections.
“I love this strange but wonderful tradition … [Groundhog] is very Oxonian,” history professor and Oxford alumnus Dr. Mark Petersen said.
As evidenced each year at Groundhog, UD students believe in the social power of beer, like the students at Lincoln College, who give free pints of ale to students at Brasenose College, with whom they have a centuries-old feud, as a yearly conciliatory gesture.
6. One place to which Groundhog has not spread, strangely, is Punxsutawney, Pa, where the largest Groundhog Day celebration takes place.
Although its Groundhog Club members, who organize the famous celebration every year, may have some awareness of UD’s celebration, the two, thus far, have little to do with one another.
7. One particularly joyful intersection of communities that takes place during Groundhog is the return of alumni to celebrate with current students.
On the Friday before Groundhog, the Cap Bar is always full of alumni hugging their friends and sharing stories about what they’ve done since graduation.
Brandon Ashton, ’16, said he came back to visit his friends and partake again in one of his favorite UD traditions.
“I came back because I missed the community, the tradition, and I wanted to return when I could see the most people,” Ashton said.
8. Even if the current students don’t know all the returning alumni, there is someone who always remembers and who seems timeless himself: Raj Luthra, owner of PDK Foods.
“I remember everyone who comes back,” Luthra said. “I just saw a guy coming in from 1995, and now his son goes here. They just kind of hang out here,” he added, gesturing to a group drinking in the parking lot.
He noted, however, that celebrants don’t usually turn to his store for their Groundhog supply of booze.
“Why would they come here?” Luthra said. “There’s some guy in the airport coming with a keg.”
9. In the midst of all these shared memories, there are freshmen celebrating Groundhog for the first time.
“There’s a lot of stuff going on, and it’s fun and interesting,” freshman Moira Debbs said. “I like how the matching sweaters create a sense of community.”
Debbs added that she hadn’t visited the university as a prospective student, making Groundhog a big surprise when she started her first semester.
10. While sophomores in Rome don’t have the full experience of the Irving Party in the Park, they often hold a small celebration of their own at the bonfire pit near the vineyard.
Professors, staff and students alike join late at night for a few beers and reflections on how the semester has gone so far, providing an opportunity to get to know one another better after the first days in Due Santi.
11. Like many traditions, Groundhog can be a polarizing celebration. Some prefer not to participate in the campus-wide Bacchanalia.
“I understand the appeal of such things, but drinking in the park — it doesn’t have the same appeal to me as it does to a lot of people,” senior Greg Frisby said. “I think drinking is a good thing … but I think it turns into drinking for the sake of drinking … I think there’s a small extent to which there’s a part of me that sees Groundhog as exemplifying some hypocrisy that exists in the UD community … and that’s what I have a problem with. But I’m not condemning the celebration or anything.”
12. There are always those nearby who don’t quite understand the tradition, but still experience it indirectly — namely, non-UD neighbors in Tower Village.
As he listens to the students partying throughout the apartment complex, one man sitting on his porch laughs at the crazy kids, only to admit that he once used to be that wild himself.
13. Even if Groundhog has moved to campus, Groundhog Park will always remain a place of lore for generations of UD students. In a strange way, it is a shrine to memory, to myth and to stories that thousands share as communal legends — even if many will not remember the precise details of those stories the next morning.