The Voice of Bates College Since 1873

The Bates Student

The Voice of Bates College Since 1873

The Bates Student

The Voice of Bates College Since 1873

The Bates Student

OPINION | Groundhog Day: a holiday, a movie, and a Lesson in Self-Confidence

From left: Michael Lieber 92, Evan Lieber, Woodstock Willie, and Sarah Lieber 26. Taken Feb. 2, 2022 in Woodstock, IL.
From left: Michael Lieber ’92, Evan Lieber, Woodstock Willie, and Sarah Lieber ’26. Taken Feb. 2, 2022 in Woodstock, IL.

If you ask any of my friends what my favorite holiday is, they would say Groundhog Day. I know the NFL has a Super Bowl in February, but Groundhog Day is my Super Bowl. The premise of the day is hilarious to me: if a groundhog (admittedly, one of the more forgettable rodents) sees his shadow, winter will continue for six more weeks. And if he does not, the season will end early.  The Pennsylvania Dutch tradition may not be meteorologically sound, but it brings joy and marks the end of a long, gray winter. After months of snow, sleet, and gloom, six more weeks of winter doesn’t seem so bad, especially for those of us in Maine who have been longing for a break from the cold.

My affection for Groundhog Day began in my junior year of high school, and I have no plans to stop my yearly celebration. I believe part of my love for the day is my connections to the 1993 movie, “Groundhog Day”. Although the film is set in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, it was actually filmed in Woodstock, Illinois, just over an hour north of my hometown, Wilmette. My town is also home to the star of the movie, Bill Murray, another connection! The success of the movie prompted Woodstock to have its own February 2nd festivities. Thus a new, less-famous groundhog entered the scene, Woodstock Willie. Growing up, once or twice I went to Woodstock to see the famous rodent, but it was when I was much younger and did not appreciate the holiday as much as I do now.

As my love for Groundhog Day grew over the years, during my senior year of high school, I hatched a plan. I was determined to see Woodstock Willie that year. I had already been accepted to Bates College and knew that I might not have another chance to see the famous groundhog on February 2nd, so I asked my dad if we could make the trip to Woodstock to see the furry celebrity and witness his prediction. As a fellow Groundhog Day enthusiast, he was easily convinced.

At 5:30 a.m. on the morning of February 2, 2022, I got in the car along with my dad and twin brother to embark on the road to Woodstock. At 7:07 a.m., Woodstock Willie (via the mayor) announced that he did not see his shadow and that winter would end early! Afterward, I got a photo with Willie himself and went to the same diner from the movie. I went to school late that day bragging to anyone and everyone that I saw the groundhog that morning. 

In preparation for this article, I decided to watch “Groundhog Day” in its entirety for the first time. Although I was familiar with some scenes and the general premise, I had never sat down to watch the movie from start to finish.

I expected it to be a surface-level rom-com, but was pleasantly surprised to find myself connecting with the lessons that can be gained from watching the film. First, if you are stuck in a time loop, laws don’t apply to you. Phil Connors (played by Murray) was far too tame in his crime. He had the whole world in his hands and, no matter what, would wake up with no consequences for his actions. Sure, he stole some money, took off with a groundhog, and evaded the police during a chase, but that’s it! All pretty low-level stuff. Maybe I’m malevolent and love heist movies, but with all that time I would be much more creative. 

An alternative moral of the story is to be kind and confident in yourself. These are traits I have been trying to amplify throughout my sophomore year. Over the summer I had a realization: I am so cool! While I might be biased in this opinion, this mindset has helped me to be more carefree this year. People don’t remember if you wear the same jeans two days a week or what is on your plate at Commons. Everyone is too self-obsessed to notice whatever trivial detail you are worrying about. And feeling cool does not take away from someone else’s cool!  We are all keen, swell, hunky-dory, or whatever fill-in-the-blank synonym, and being such does not mean other people are therefore less cool. In high school, being “cool” gave you status, but college is a different playing field. Now, the word takes on a new meaning. It is all about authenticity, loving who we are, and being kind to everyone. And this is easier said than done–while I try to keep up the ideology that I am cool, it can get easy to feel like everyone sees and judges your every move in our college world. But, as soon as you realize that you are, honestly, iconic, everything feels a little less stressful. C’mon, who cares? Sure, this is college and we have to plan ahead, but at the same time, it’s just college. These years are meant to be fun and some that people often call the best of our lives. So be cool and by that I mean be yourself. You are so cool! Be whatever you want to be and be happy doing it!

I know this is pretty introspective for an article about Groundhog Day, but stay with me! At the beginning of the movie, Phil is down in the dumps, mean and self-obsessed. After an hour and forty-one minutes, all of that has changed. He has gained a new appreciation for life and those around him. Not only does he fall in love with Andie MacDowell’s character, Rita, but Phil falls in love with himself. While we do not get a real glimpse into his life before Feb. 1, it is clear from the exposition of that particular day that he is miserable. Throughout the movie, he gains confidence, from asking women on dates to driving on the railroad tracks to learning piano. Phil begins to own who he is. While part of this was driven by boredom and curiosity, as the story progresses, he becomes a better person because of it all. He becomes kind. And what’s cooler than being kind? 

So, this year, I say, be like Phil Connors and be kind. Be like Rita and be true to yourself and your morals. And be like me, confident in who you are, because pal, you are pretty cool! Be goofy and dance like everyone’s watching, because when they do watch and see you having fun, they will want to have just as much fun. Wear what you want to wear. Try new styles or throw on a hat, even if you think you aren’t a hat person. And cut yourself some slack. No one really knows what they are doing, so it’s okay to not have everything figured out. Just P.I.B.E: play it by ear. Take each day as it comes and if you have the mentality that you are cool and it will work out, then, odds are, it will. 

In the spirit of thinking about the future, here are my Groundhog Day predictions. While I believe Punxsutawney Phil will not see his shadow, Woodstock Willie will see his!

View Comments (2)
More to Discover

Comments (2)

All comments must have an attached name and email. Please direct comments to the content of the article; attacking writers in any way, shape or form will not be tolerated. Any comments which do not meet these requirements will not be published.
All The Bates Student Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  • J

    JOHN NASHFeb 3, 2024 at 2:13 PM

    Great Article Sarah! Totally agree with your philosophy!

  • S

    Stella BlackFeb 1, 2024 at 4:04 PM

    I thought it was a great article.I hope people pay attention and be kind.We need it especially now.It was a pleasure to meet you in person.Stella Black P.S.
    I have not seen the movie . I am interested after reading your article. I hope to hear more about your college career.