“On Valentine’s Day, the Spirit Club plastered the school with red streamers and pink balloons and red and pink hearts. It looked like Clifford the Big Red Dog ate a flock of flamingoes and then barfed his guts up.” ― Carolyn Mackler, Vegan, Virgin, Valentine
It seems, every Valentine’s Day is my own version of The St. Valentine’s Day Massacre. Once again, I have shot myself in the foot but at least my bride hasn’t beheaded me like the original St. Valentine. I’m sure she has considered it.
When it comes to Valentine’s Day, I have the Midas touch in reverse. Everything I touch turns to poop.
My first memory of a Valentine’s Day celebration was a preteen party in the early 1960s. The Church sponsored affair was supposed to be a dress up, Sunday best kind of gala. We were Methodist so dancing would be allowed, and I prayed my two left feet would somehow transform themselves.
The day before, the world’s largest zit appeared in the middle of my forehead. It didn’t matter. I’m sure the dance was great, but I have no memories because I didn’t get to go. My anxiety over my “first date” was so great I threw up and was kept home. It might have been something else but Valentine’s Day has been a downhill drag since.
The dance worked out well for my date. A friend took advantage of the situation, and they became a couple. This weird Cupid moment might have been the high point of my attempts at being a romantic Valentine.
Can you imagine, on the average, fifty-eight billion pounds or two point two billion dollars’ worth of chocolate will be sold the week leading up to Valentine’s Day. Over two-hundred and fifty million roses are produced just for Valentine’s Day. That is two point three billion in flower sales. A whopping six point two billion dollars are spent on jewelry.
Love-struck Americans dole out almost twenty-four billion dollars on Valentine’s Day with men spending twice the average. Men will spend on average, one-hundred and seventy dollars to prove their undying love. Women? Half of that.
I’ve all but given up on making Valentine’s Day a special event. Attempts at romantic dinners have ended with food poisoning. I’ve tried poetry, “Roses are red, violets are blue, pizza is hot, and so are you.” I’ve tried to create artistic and rustic birdhouses with tin hearts or a couple holding hands. Most fell apart as quickly as my other attempts at romantic expression. I’m waiting for a masked psychopath to show up to carve out my heart in a real-life Valentine’s slasher movie. Blood splatter replacing rose petals scattered on the bedroom floor.
Speaking of bloody, how did the violent death of a Catholic saint become a celebration of love anyway? There are three suggested stories about three different Saint Valentines. What do they have in common? Martyrdom. Violent death. Two of the accounts involve beheading. Somehow beheading seems apropos. How many of us have lost our heads over someone we shouldn’t have?
The seeds of the holiday we know as Valentine’s Day were planted in Lupercalia, an ancient Roman festival honoring the Roman goddess of marriage some twenty-six hundred years ago. It was a pagan festival and involved excesses we have come to expect from such a ritual.
Lupercalia was a sexually charged and violent rite, involving the sacrifice of dogs and male goats as a sign of virility. Priests would cover themselves in milk and the blood of their sacrifices and run naked through the streets whipping women with strips of goat hide cut from the bodies of their sacrifices. Sounds like fun. Getting whipped would allow the barren to become pregnant and women lined up for the opportunity.
Later in the day, men would pick women’s names from a jar in hopes that they would form a romantic bond. In my mind I read that differently than it was written. I mentally visualize a Seventies wife swapping party with car keys drawn from a candy dish. I have no firsthand knowledge, I read a lot.
All this changes around 500 A.D. with the rise of Christianity. Pope Gelasius replaced the pagan rite by instituting the Feast of Saint Valentine on February 14. Christians feeling the need to end all the fun of naked men running around whipping women.
There are several stories involving Christians named Valentine who were executed by the Roman Emperor Claudius II about two hundred years previous, but the most famous was a third-century martyr imprisoned for secretly marrying Christian couples and helping persecuted believers. This Valentine was reportedly executed on Feb. 14, 289 A.D.
As fiction became more interesting than fact, the future saint supposedly restored sight to his jailer’s blind daughter. Later, the legend grew even more to include a letter he gave the girl before his execution, reportedly signed “Your Valentine.”
That still doesn’t explain cards, candy, flowers, and jewelry but a historical change in Nineteenth Century America does. Prior to this time most marriages were economic rather than romantic despite what romantic writers would have us believe. Even the poor founded their marriages more as economic alliances than romantic love. “Two can live as cheaply as one,” I was told once. Someone lied to me.
This changed in the mid-1800s from economics to romance, or at least combined the two. It also triggered an increase in the giving of tokens of love and it has snowballed from there.
I thought I had nailed it this year but once again reality has reared its ugly head. A sweet token of my love involving puppy dogs I saw online. I immediately knew it would be perfect and I ordered it a month ago. Something cute to let her know of my undying love. It won’t be here until the end of February. Typical. Why would I expect any difference? The supply chain issues have bit me upon my chubby, pink, cherubic butt. “Cupid, draw back your bow….”
Don Miller’s author page may be accessed at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM?fbclid=IwAR3yEfoldEBWs3ZbA6bCCQc13npcCrXWdZl0pVYvdbsRMQ86SppPZQVl3SE