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Canadians Jubilant Despite Unexpected Death Of Weather-Predicting Rodent Fred La Marmotte

Still via ICI Radio-Canada Est-du-Québec

Today is Groundhog Day. That’s the day where, most famously in the Pennsylvania borough of Punxsutawney, a bunch of weirdos in costumes pull a poor groundhog out of its burrow and attempt to discern whether it has seen its shadow. Somehow, this presages six more weeks of winter, or possibly the opposite. Like astrology or transubstantiation, I don’t fully grasp how it works.

And like rituals around astrology and transubstantiation, you really can create a lot of community around it. The groundhog ritual developed out of superstitions German-speaking communities in Pennsylvania brought with them from Europe. It has led to thousands of people crowding a seemingly random Western Pennsylvania town every winter for a party. Not a bad crowd for a show where the centerpiece is a grumpy rodent. I’ve been to Punxsutawney. Phil lives in a little burrow at City Hall year round. There are groundhog statues around town. Other places have their own weather-predicting rodents and silly little games they play around it. It’s cute! It’s good!

That doesn’t mean it’s always good for the groundhog. Early Groundhog Day traditions in Pennsylvania involved eating the groundhog and drinking a pork/chicken concoction called “groundhog punch.” I’m not sure which is grosser. In 2014, then-New York City mayor Bill de Blasio dropped a groundhog.

Though the borough’s weather-prediction rodent is Staten Island Chuck, de Blasio dropped a stand-in named Charlotte. She died a few days later. Though the Staten Island Zoo released a statement saying it “appeared unlikely” Charlotte was killed by the fall, I think we can all continue to blame de Blasio for killing the groundhog for hilarity-related reasons.

Groundhog Day 2023 brings to us another tragedy. Quebec’s groundhog, Fred la Marmotte, died before being able to deliver his prediction. There was about an hour of build-up at the live event and on a livestream, before organizer Roberto Blondin told the horrified crowd the groundhog was dead.

You don’t need to speak French to know when this dude said the groundhog was dead.

La mort du Fred! Aw, man. Canada’s Global News quoted Blondin: “When I went to wake him last night he had no vital signs. He most likely died during hibernation.” How long had this groundhog been dead? “Jour de Fred festivities went ahead despite the death of the titular Fred,” the Montreal Gazette said, and that is clear from the livestream.

via the livestream

Is … is this how they mourn in Canada? Blondin pulled out a stuffed toy groundhog, then lifted a human child as Fred stand-ins. Who knows if spring will ever come to Canada.

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