It’s origins make for a nice story, but then again, so do fairytales
I’m just going to go right ahead and put it out there, because I’m trite, trivial and all those other good T words: Valentine’s Day is a Hallmark holiday. I know that guys think so because they’re forced to buy stupid gifts like pink teddy bears (or forced to walk into Victoria’s Secret all shame-faced to buy a different kind of teddy entirely) and all single girls think so because we’re not getting those lame ass stuffies (or sweet ass lingerie). This dichotomy pretty much sums up how Valentine’s day actually came to be…and why we all might hate it, but secretly, in our heart of hearts, actually kind of love it as well.
So hunker down and get ready for a lovely little legend…and another one that kind of freaks me out. Valentine was a third century Roman priest who also doubled as Cupid. Emperor Claudius II enforced a law decreeing that soldiers weren’t allowed to marry because he thought men without families made better fighters. What a dick. Rightfully so, Valentine thought this was outrageous, and set about making Italian military men happy by marrying them in secret. When he was ratted out (who would do such a thing?!) Claudius had him killed.
There’s also some story that Hallmark probably fabricated about the origin of the tangible ‘valentine.’ If the myth is correct, the priest fell in love with a young girl who visited him during his imprisonment. Before he was killed, he sent her a letter signed ‘From Your Valentine.’ This part of the story is just hearsay, of course, but then, what legend isn’t part truth, part fabrication?
Here’s where the story gets weird. The reason V-Day is celebrated in February has to do with the Lupercalia, a fertility festival dedicated to Faunus, the Roman god of agriculture, which took place during the Ides of February. During this time period, the Luperci, an order of Roman priests, would gather at a sacred cave where the infants Romulus and Remus (who then became the founders of Rome) were believed to have been cared for by a she-wolf ,or lupa. The priests would sacrifice a goat, for fertility, and a dog, for purification (poor Lassie no come home). Then, they’d skin the goat into bloody strips and slap the women around with its raw, rotting hide. Believe it or not, the Italian women actually liked this nasty ass ceremony because they thought it would help them make babies in the upcoming year.
After getting beaten and liking it, the women would all put their names in a huge urn, whereupon the entire city of Rome would turn into one giant Ben Flajnik-less episode of The Bachelor. The single city guys would choose a name and be paired for the year with his ‘chosen woman’. If he liked her after the year was up, they’d tie the knot. I’d hate to see what happens if the men didn’t choose the girl he’d been schtupping for a year to be his bride, though I suspect they’d look a lot like Casey Shteamer did when she got booted from the show this week.
I guess when you compare the Valentine’s Day of yesteryear — raw goathide slapping, pooch sacrifices and all — our modern day definition really doesn’t seem so bad. Attached girls get roses and candy, single girls get drunk. We all know that real love exists beyond one silly day out of 364, so I guess I should quit my bitching and be glad that someone has cared enough about me to buy me a pink teddy (the stuffy, that is; never the lace kind I want). No matter how it’s expressed, love is still love, right? I guess I’ll just have to suck up each and every ‘I heart you bear-y much’ and ‘roses are red, violets are blue’ sentiment and stop complaining…next year, that is.