14 February 2017

Would You Be My Patron Saint of Plague?

Ah, Valentine's Day. The one day of the year where most feel obligated to shower their significant others with flowers and food and lingerie and folded pieces of paper and candy that tastes like rejected classroom chalk. I mean, yeah, you could do these things on any day of the week, but for some odd reason, Valentine's Day is special.

Many of us think it's because guys like Hallmark and Godiva invented the day just to increase profits. I won't argue that they and other companies have certainly raked in their fair share of the bucks, that's a bit too cynical a view about this day... and I'm a cynic!

And as it is ever my joy in life to educate my fellow human beings, come and take an ever so brief jump into some of the hidden truths about Valentine's Day.

It all begins with the man, himself: Saint Valentine.

Well, it would, if we knew which Valentine we were talking about. The Catholic Church itself isn't entirely certain as to who the man is. While there is record of about eleven other saints bearing the name, the Catholic Encyclopedia (and yes, that is a thing) lists three men who could have been this Valentine; a Roman priest, a bishop of Interamna, and some random guy from Roman Africa. Only one thing is universally accepted is his martyrdom on the Via Flaminia, north of Rome, on February 14th, in the 3rd century of the common era.

Why was he martyred? Well, if we go by images that are attributed to him, it was likely for refusing to worship false gods. This was before the time of Emperor Constantine and the Romans were really big on persecuting Christians, so that's plausible.

How did he die? Well, if we go back images that are attributed to him, he was likely beheaded. That or he was pecked to death by roosters. I've played the Zelda games, I know how ruthless those birds can be!

Anyway, moving on. “What would he be the patron saint of,” I hear you wonder aloud. Well, love, of course... but that's not all. The man is also the patron saint of marriages and engaged couples, of beekeeper and prevention against fainting, and of epilepsy and plague... as in Bubonic.

So, we've got a day dedicated to a possibly decapitated holy man who is the patron saint of Yersinia pestis; American Greetings and Whitman's really know how to pick them, huh?

Well, here's where that line of thought actually gets a bit skewed. See, the Catholic Church did make February 14th a day in honor of Saint Valentine in 493 CE, but like most feasts involving saints, it was more about prayer and reflection than sending love notes and fancy dinners. It would be over nine hundred years before the first attachment of romantic love to Saint Valentine, and it would come in the form of a 700-line late-14th century poem written by Geoffrey Chaucer titled “Parlement of Foules.”

I don't know which numbered line of the poem it was, because I'm not that obsessive, but I do have the line here...
For this was on seynt Volantynys day
Whan euery bryd comyth there to chese his make.
...which, if you don't understand old English, translates roughly to...
For this was on St. Valentine's Day
When every bride cometh there to choose his mate.
That was written to commemorate an engagement anniversary, by the way; King Richard II to Anne of Bohemia.

There would be other poems and such to come after, but the first actual “Valentine” as we know it wouldn't happen until the early-19th century over in England. At first, you had to be well-off enough to afford the postage to send the letter, but after the invention of the postal stamp in 1840, more and more cards were sent. The first mass-produced “Valentines” in the United States were made by Esther Howland of Worcester, Massachusetts in 1847, 59 years before American Greetings and 63 years before Hallmark.

Additionally, in the United States, Valentine's Day-related spending constantly increases at a rate of nearly ten per cent a year. Well done, thou good and faithful consumer.

Now, I am not saying to not enjoy the day. I'm not saying to disregard it, now that you know some of the history of the man and the day. By all means, shower those you wish to with affection, but don't limit it to just that day. Do it every day. Make them feel loved. Make them feel appreciated. You certainly don't need a trip to Benihana to do that... but hey, who am I to tell you how to pamper someone.

Just remember, there's more everything than what you see.

Now, take these VALENTINE'S CUPCAKES and go have you some consensual sexy rumpus with someone!

Because that just what Valentine's Day is all about now, isn't it? Cupcake and sexy rumpus!

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