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Happy ValenHog Day

John Infranca | Sunday, February 8, 2004

Scholars dispute whether Jesus intended to found a new religion, or merely proposed a reform movement within Judaism. It is unlikely that either action resulted from a drunken bet. That is the rumor that many claim as the basis of L. Ron Hubbard’s creation of Scientology. I do not feel qualified to determine whether this is true. It is clear that Hubbard created a religion, a task I deem beyond my abilities. Instead I have decided to create a new holiday, a task perhaps no less laudable. I call it ValenHog. ValenHog combines two of the least consequential holidays in existence: Groundhog Day and Valentines Day. It is a rejection of the extreme marketing of one and an attempt to retrieve the Earth-centered spirituality that is vital to the other. What follows is the brief history of ValenHog.Most historians date the origins of ValenHog to a few centuries before the Common Era. Its celebration is recorded in now-destroyed Norse mythology, and references to ValenHog persist in Druid texts through the Middle Ages. Early celebration marked the end of the hibernation period of a mysterious figure know as the Cupinhog (Druid: Kupynhagh). Known among other things for his fierce temper and intense virility, the Cupinhog’s greatest concerns following months alone underground were romantic rather than culinary. While other creatures dined he went in search of love, armed with arrow heads formed from sharpened acorns. As might be imagined, he was often less than successful. If he was unable to find love within a fortnight – a period of time known best to readers of Victorian novels – he returned to his hole, extending winter as well as his own sexual frustrations. This two week period of romantic wandering, marked by unseasonably warm weather, was known as “The Time Between the Frosts,” which eventually gave rise to the American collegiate endeavor known as “Spring Break,” representing an attempt to retrieve this experience, albeit at much greater expense and with the noted absence of furry woodland creatures.The Cupinhog, whom archeologists believe to have stood about four feet tall, was covered in a very large amount of shaggy fur, which some credit for the later romantic connotations of shag carpeting. Common people would spend much time during this two week period chasing Cupinhogs with the hope of plucking a hair from the animal. It was believed that planting such a hair in one’s field would promise plentiful crops in the coming spring. Others claimed that planting such a hair in the food of one’s lover would intoxicate the person with passion for the plucker. Vestiges of this belief can still be found in restaurants throughout the United States. As Christianity spread through Northern Europe, the ValenHog celebration came under attack. The Church joined with early greeting card manufacturers in assailing the beloved animal, believed to be lustful as well as illiterate and hence unable to write notes to those whose love he sought and therefore an unviable potential consumer for any developed marketing scheme. Eventually Cupinhogs were driven underground – metaphorically speaking, as they already lived underground – and many sought refuge in other parts of the world. It is widely believed that a number of Cupinhogs escaped to the United States, arriving long prior to the first human Europeans and establishing communities in the Pittsburgh area. Soon the holiday of ValenHog was Christianized and later separated into two holidays: Groundhog Day and Valentine’s Day. Still a small group of individuals struggled to keep alive the true story of the Cupinhog, revealing the mystery in various art forms. Keepers of this secret are believed to include the cartoonist Gary Larson, whose work, when held under a black light, can be found to reveal renderings of the Cupinhog, often sitting, armed with bow and arrow, astride an unknowing cow. Other forces sought to destroy any record of the secret, including the Vatican, Hallmark, FTD, the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club, Health Department Restaurant Inspectors and Colonel Sanders. Their activities drove the Cupinhogs to relocate once again to a location that is now unknown, but where they are believed to reside with Jimmy Hoffa, Marilyn Monroe and Elvis.Elements of the ValenHog tradition persisted into the 1960s. Most notable among these was the association of virility and romance with hair. Sean Connery – believed to be a keeper of the secret – and other factions made a valiant stance as the last of the hairy-chested leading men before finally succumbing to the forces of Fabio and others who adorn the covers of Men’s Journal and similar fare and who have consciously redefined late twentieth century romantic chest hair discourse. Hence as the result of clever marketing and abject rejection of the “sacred furry” ValenHog day has nearly faded from memory. Perhaps my pretension to the creation of such a holiday seems a silly and ridiculous venture. I offer that it is no more so than the one billion greeting cards purchased each year for Valentine’s Day. The four dollars spent on a piece of folded paper makes even textbooks seem reasonably priced. ValenHog at the very least aspires to creativity. That and a kiss on the lips from a lovelorn Cupinhog are perhaps all one can hope for this day. Happy ValenHog Day.

John Infranca is a theology graduate student. His column appears every other Friday. He can be contacted at jinfran1@nd.edu.The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.