Balentimes

Anyone who says that Valentine’s Day is a day created by the greeting card companies is wrong. I know. I wanted it to be that way too. I’ve never been a big fan of Valentine’s Day–the emphasis placed on romance when there is very little romance to go around. As a single person I would don all black on Valentine’s Day (OK, most other days too–recovering Goth that I am) and eschew all things pink, red, or made of chocolate.

Now that I’m married I have romance and love and affection every day, so I have no need for one day that I or my husband should feel obligated to spend money and brave the greeting card section of the grocery store (or, God forbid, a CARD STORE) just because this is the day the calendar says we’re supposed to express our love for one another.

So I guess you could say that I’m still not a fan.

Since Valentine’s Day as we know it today is so different from the origin (sentiment is the same, execution much much different), I thought I’d wikipedia the bad boy to see if I couldn’t get educated about my least favorite holiday. (Seriously, I like Arbor Day more than Valentine’s Day).

I learned a lot–if it can be trusted coming from Wikipedia. I absolutely adore the site, but am a little suspect since anybody can update it. It is closely monitored. It isn’t, however, acceptable source for any school-related work. Which is a bummer. I guess it would make it too easy, anyway, even if it was 100% true and accurate.

The holiday came about in Chaucer’s time, but that part is kind of boring and the fertility festivals should be much more fun to read about, but they’re not. The beginnings are a bit muddy, with some people who believe that the holiday started in ancient times, with other more reputable folks stating that it all started with good ol’ Chaucer. It seems a little odd that there was no relation whatsoever between the month of February being dedicated to the marriage of Zeus and Hera and the celebration of courtly love in the High Middle Ages, but maybe that’s just me. Either way, check it out and learn something, while you’re eating all that candy.

The coolest part for me was learning about the saints that Valentine’s Day is named after, as I am psuedo-obsessed with saints as a frustrated Catholic (meaning that I’ve never been Catholic, but I’ve always kind of wished I was. And not a converted one, either. Born into it. But no such luck (or, according to my Catholic friends, lucky me). So, for your enjoyment, here is a rundown Saint Valentine himself, in my own words:

Most Catholic scholars say that Valentine of Rome and Valentine of Terni are the same guy, and since I just now learned about them today I’m not going to argue.
‘Ol Valentine was a beloved priest (maybe bishop) who lived from about 175 to 269 AD. So if the dates are true, he was old as dirt when the executed him. But I am getting ahead of myself…

Rome was in a state of flux. Everybody was murdering everyone else to get to the throne, and Claudius II (or Gothicus, since he defeated the Goths) murdered his predecessor and took the throne. He had it for a whole 2 years before he died of the plague and left Rome to Aurelian. Claudius’s brother, Quintillus stepped in for a few days (anywhere from 17 to 117 days) and then one of three things happened to him:

his own soldiers killed him because he was a dick
the next guy that wanted the throne had him killed
he killed himself because he got booted out of power

My money’s on #2, since ol Aurelian came to power and ruled big time for FIVE WHOLE YEARS, which was a big deal for the soldier emperor trend of the time.

Anyway, while Claudius was emperor a fellow by the name of Placid Furius was apparently allowed to do ruler-type things while Claudius was off trying to restore the empire. There isn’t much out there about Placid Furius, other than he was a Roman Prefect. I guess he was also pretty pissed off about being a walking oxymoron. So Placid, he has Valentine captured (which can’t have been too difficult, considering he was so, so, so very old) in the dead of night so that none of the townspeople would know what happened. The people really liked Father/Bishop Valentine, because he would heal on the spot, and he was kind, and he made a mean three-bean chili. V-Man pissed off o’d Furius by giving food, counsel, and aid to some martyrs that were imprisoned (not sure about this, since I thought in order to be martyred you had to be dead, but shows what I know). Furius had Valentine imprisoned, and good old Valentine did what he always does, and healed the jailer’s blind daughter. The jailer became a Christian because of this (one more for the God Team). According the legend Claudius himself questioned Valentine and liked him well enough. He offered him the chance to convert to paganism and live, but Valentine picked God instead and was executed (beheaded, to be exact).

If this Terni guy and Valentine of Rome are the same people, then his clothes and body parts are scattered hither and yon as relics in Rome, Dublin, and Terni.

If the Catholic Encyclopedia is right there was also another saint named Valentine who was martyred in Africa. I’d like to think he got cocky and his buddies fed him to some lions. That’s very biblical, too.

So, Valentines Day. Enjoy your conversation hearts, and rest in the knowledge that you learned something today…from me…who learned it from the internet. So it’s possible that you’ve learned things that simply aren’t true. Ain’t knowledge grand?
Here is a photograph of the calendar I make every month for my department’s conference room.

And here is a photograph of Valentine’s Day. Did you know there was a rapper named Cupid? See? You learned something else from me.

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3 Responses to Balentimes

  1. nearoblivion says:

    This is a thing of beauty.

  2. Gail Johnson says:

    Hey, i was looking around your posts and found several wp errors on firefox, just thought i’d let you know

  3. Elizabeth says:

    Gail. Thanks. Could you be more specific?

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