Wednesday, February 13, 2013

On Valentine's Day

Shoot. Well, I'm guessing I will do anything to not sit down and get my brain working.

So let's talk about another holiday hitting us. VALENTINE'S DAY.

Knows Valentines is coming,
or saw that Marco Rubio is stealing his "Take a drink" meme franchise. (Topical!)

from Chicago Tribune
So, Valentine's. As we all know the saccharine day exists to celebrate the events of February 14th, 1929. When a collection of mobsters were "hugged to death" by some rival mobsters after they'd received their lovely gift of a new puppy...

Wait, I probably shouldn't be getting my history from the Citizen Radio Definitive Source on History, Vol. 6. Sorry.

Oh, yeah. It's another one of those kinda sorta religious things.

Valentine's Day, or St. Valentine's Day, as you could guess, is in honor of someone named Valentine. A saint even. Now I'd get more specific with this, but...It isn't really clear who Valentine is.

I know, if you do know much of the holiday's history, you've heard some story. How he'd been a really great guy. He married soldiers that were, under law, meant to stay single. He was preaching the faith. Yadda yadda. But out of the early history of the Christian faith, there were many Valentines (like how there are so many Johns, Jesus, and Beyonces now). A number of figures from early history could be the original. They have differing tales that may be of the same person, or different ones, or just be stories. (Luckily this never happens again in all of religion.)

Do I need to caption this?
But a story did form. All the familiar beats, along with a nice grisly end. Saints need their dire exits. He's taken to the Roman emperor, offered friendship and freedom if he'll convert, and refuses. Then, before execution, he heals the jailers blind daughter (Aw!). Every saint needs that occasional moment of magic power to do all sorts of wonders...Just never really escape prison or execution (But, hey, no one made them join the faith big on martyrdom.). And then the final act, beaten horribly, and, since still alive, beheaded.

Isn't that a great basis for a mandatory date night? Isn't symbolic? (Don't answer that married folk! It's trap!) Well, it worked nicely for early Christians.

And at some point, well the end of the 5th century, a pope created the Feast of St. Valentine. Now, if you've read my recent posts, you may also remember it's now Lent. So, I am a little confused how in the 6th century a Feast of St. Valentine worked during a time of fasting. I'm sure it involves miracles, or something quantum.

Still we had that for awhile. It's not much. And, eventually, the church decided Valentine was a vague enough figure to pull back in the observance of his special day. No idea why the Church would have an issue with a big date night.

But, as usual, the Church didn't really get what they had on their hands. (To be fair, all the off shoot churches didn't get it either.) You see, Valentine, with a little poetic spin could be quite useful. It was not until people like Geoffrey Chaucer (Canterbury Tales, etc.) got to work on the saint and the feast day that it really started to take shape as the day we know now.

La Belle Dame Sans Merci
by Sir Frank Dicksee
This point in the Middle Ages was a big launching point for chivalry, courtly romance, and, if you read storybooks, the fad of women wearing large pointy hats with veils trailing off. There was a surge of romantic tales and poetry.

Chaucer wrote one of the earliest Valentine poems:
The Parliament of Fowls is perhaps the first St. Valentine's Day poem ever written. Brewer suggests that it was begun in May of 1382 and finished for Valentine's day in 1383. ... 
A gardyn saw I, ful of blosmy bowes 
Upon a ryver, in a grene mede, 
There as swetnesse everemore inow is, 
With floures whyte, blewe, yelwe, and rede,
And colde welle-stremes, nothyng dede, 
That swymmen ful of smale fishes lighte, 
With fynnes rede and skales sylver bryghte 

It was a shift in how the day was perceived. Valentine had been reallocated to matters of love. The romantics needed a day, and he was conveniently available. Just as he had been to early Church leader.

So, traditions began. Flowers were exchanged. Then sweets (And, I hate to pause again, but...Lent?). And, of course...the greeting card came in to the picture.

So, yes, today greeting card companies, candy makers, and jewelry pushers do have a vested interests in pushing Valentine's Day, hard. But we should all take comfort. They follow in a long line of people doing this, going back to the early Church that sainted this fellow named Valentine...

...You know, I can't help feeling this fact should offer up some critique of romance...

...DAMN! I'm just not a jaded enough a person to see what it would be.


NOW you know why he drinks.

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