Michille: Happy Valentine’s Day

https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=36899372St. Valentine is thought to be a real person, recognized by the Catholic Church, who died around 270 A.D. It is thought that he was beheaded by emperor Claudius II for helping soldiers wed. There is some question about this as there was another St. Valentine around the same time who helped Christians escape harsh Roman prisons who was then imprisoned himself, fell in love with his jailer’s daughter, and signed his love letters to her “From your Valentine.” There are about a dozen St. Valentines plus a pope. The most recent saint was beheaded in 1861 and canonized in 1988, and the pope of that name lasted about 40 days. Odd history for a romantic holiday – a lot of beheadings involved.

Odd saint for lovers, too, as he is the patron saint of beekeepers and epilepsy, and is called on for plagues, fainting, and traveling. The excavation of catacombs near Rome yielded a body that someone decided was St. Valentine and now his skull is displayed in Rome and other bits of him are on display in Ireland, Scotland, England, France, and the Czech Republic, which could explain the travelling.

Despite the day being named after St. Valentine, Geoffrey Chaucer is commonly credited with inventing Valentine’s Day. His poem, ‘Parlement of Foules’, is the earliest reference to folks coming together to find a mate. Here are two references from his poem (full translation here):

For this was on Saint Valentine’s day,
When every fowl comes there his mate to take,

You know that on Saint Valentine’s day,
By my statute and through my governance,
You come to choose – and then fly your way –
Your mates, as I your desires enhance.

If you don’t like restricting yourself to February 14, having bad memories associated with it, or want to save face if you forget, you can choose from several other days:

  • St. Valentine of Viterbo – November 3
  • St. Valentine of Raetia – January 7
  • St. Valentine (Valentina) – the only female in the bunch – July 25
  • Eastern Orthodox St. Valentine – July 6 and July 30 (not sure why they celebrate him twice)

Happy Valentine’s Day. Despite the dubious history of the holiday, it is a commercial celebration of romance and romantic love. Go forth and celebrate as you chose, but don’t lose your head (a little Valentine’s Day humor).

5 thoughts on “Michille: Happy Valentine’s Day

  1. What a great history, Michille! I had no idea, either. Although I did know that who Valentine was is open to interpretation. I just didn’t know how open.

    I think I’ll celebrate the day by eating some of the chocolate hearts that I was gifted. And then my doctor will no doubt chop my head off.

    • We celebrated with Salmon and couscous. No cards or flowers or, sadly, conversation hearts because Necco went out of business. The cynic in me is not a Valentine’s Day fan, yet loves the HEA. I wonder how many other romance writers feel the same?

  2. So interesting! Like a lot of holidays, I take the bits I like and leave the rest for whoever wants them. (-: I don’t know if I’ve ever gotten a serious bit of Valentine’s Day present action. I wouldn’t mind a bouquet this time of year, though.

    We were in Tokyo, where all the major department stores were pushing chocolates and the restaurants had chocolate-y treats. We (my foodie daughter and I) wound up in Eggs ‘n’ Things in Harajuku, and had their stacked chocolate pancakes with a mountain of fresh whipped cream — and when you cut into the stack, the column of hot chocolate pudding gradually oozed out, and looked Instagram perfect. (-: Not bad.

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