February 14, 496 A.D. – St. Carl “Valentine” Kawalski

Everyone knows that Valentine’s Day is named after St. Valentine, a 3rd century man who is the patron saint of lovers. What most people don’t know, however, is that St. Valentine’s real name was Carl Kawalski and he was also the patron saint of head trauma patients. But Carl had not always been a saint.  Carl’s neighbor had been a fellow by the name of Saint Frank, who happened to be the patron saint of jealous pricks (a surprising number of regular folks became self proclaimed “saints” in the 3rd Century, due to general boredom in what historians widely refer to as the “dullest century on record”). Carl’s jealously of St. Frank spurred his pursuit of sainthood for himself, whereupon he began referring to himself as Saint Valentine (the name had been taken from a childhood dog, who coincidentally had also been a patron saint).

Carl began to experiment with different “patronisms”, as he called them, to find his specialty. Carl tried being the patron saint of many things; eating contests, carnival games, karaoke, carpet laying, breaking and entering, aggravated assault, alcoholism, arrow catching, arrow removal/flesh wounds, and lint collecting just to name a few. Nothing seemed to fit. On February 14, 496 A.D., in an attempt to become the patron saint of bowling ball juggling, Carl was left with irreversible brain damage. He spent the remainder of his life doling out drool covered hugs and cutting tiny red hearts out of construction paper. Thus we have the beginning of our Valentine’s Day traditions; and the reason why bowling ball juggling on February 14th is illegal.

Carl’s deeds were eventually lost to history until 1912, when careful research and some slight story embellishments by an American man named Joyce Clyde Hall, lead to his canonization by the Catholic Church.  The successful canonization propelled Joyce Hall’s then fledgling “Hall Brothers” greeting card business onto the national scene.  You know them better today as Hallmark.  This is why Valentine’s Day is often referred to as a “Hallmark Holiday”.

In the words of the great Paul Harvey, “now you know the rest of the story.”

February 2, 1886 – Punxsutawney Carl And The Groundhog Day Mauling

On this day in 1887, the first Groundhog Day (as we know it today) was celebrated at Gobbler’s Knob in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania.  A newspaper editor belonging to the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club (a group of groundhog hunters) declared Phil, Punxsutawney’s groundhog, to be the only true weather predicting rodent in America.  Tradition states that if Phil sees his shadow he will retreat back into his hole and there will be six more weeks of winter.  He will then be the most loathed creature in America.  The year prior, in 1886, the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club, which was then known as the Punxsutawney Black Bear Club (guess what they hunted) tried to hold a celebration on the same principles.  Unfortunately, instead of seeing his shadow after emerging from hibernation, the bear known as Punxsutawney Carl saw the seven sportsman gathered outside his den and gave them all good mauling.  The group changed its name the following day and decided to hunt a slightly easier prey.  *Note: Gobbler’s Knob is named after Thomas Myron Gobbler, who lost his arm to Carl, leaving only a knob in its place.

America is not the only country to celebrate this holiday.  For instance, Russia used to hold a similar Groundhog Day celebration, but that all changed when Vladimir Putin became acting President on December 31, 1999.  Putin, using intelligence he had gathered during his time in the KGB, formed a case against the Moscow Marmot, resulting in his banishment to a Siberian labor camp.  It is said that the Moscow Marmot befriended an aging COL Bananapants (for more information read here) who helped him finally get over his fear of shadows.  As for Groundhog Day in Russia currently, it is celebrated by Putin riding a pure white horse while shirtless through the streets of Moscow.  Citizens of Moscow are expected to emerge from their homes to witness the “parade”, but may not look directly at their President.  Instead they must only gaze at his shadow because if they were to inadvertently make eye contact with him, he would “make sure that winter never ended for them.”

On a final note, there have been 54 Punxsutawney Phil’s since the first Groundhog Day in 1887.  The tradition of the U.S. President pardoning the Thanksgiving Turkey actually started with the pardoning of the Punxsutawney Phil, as he was typically killed and eaten if his weather prediction were incorrect.  This tradition was stopped when local meteorologist began getting similar threats.