Sunday, February 14, 2016

Happy Black Sunday.

We're all friends here, right? So I'll be frank: I don't have a lot of use for Valentine's Day.

I'm in my sixth decade on this planet. For the first ten years or so, I could count on Valentines from my parents and my classmates (except for the year my teacher ruined Valentine's Day); for another ten years, I was married, and could count on something from the husband. For the remaining three-plus decades, I've been in Valentine limbo -- either wondering whether I'd have a reason to celebrate, or simply waiting for the day after, when Valentine candy would be fifty percent off.

Why do we celebrate this day, anyway? To start with, it was the feast day of a Catholic saint. St. Valentine of Terni, Wikipedia tells me, was a Roman who was martyred on this date in the third century. Or maybe it was two different guys, both named Valentine and martyred in different years. I guess the church records were a little sketchy in those days. In any case, the Catholic church didn't establish February 14th as the feast day of St. Valentine until 496 -- and then the church sort of demoted him in 1969. He's still a saint, but local churches don't have to observe his feast day.

Traditionally, St. Valentine is the patron saint of beekeeping, epilepsy, and bubonic plague. Romantic, no?

It was Geoffrey Chaucer who first connected St. Valentine to romance in his Parliament of Foules. People in the Middle Ages believed that birds paired off in mid-February, according to the Julian calendar; St. Valentine's feast day was the 14th; hey presto, we've got a holiday for love and romance. Some scholars over the centuries since have argued that Valentine celebrations were invented by the church to supersede and replace the pagan celebration of Lupercalia, but that has pretty much been debunked.

Anyway, within the past hundred years or so, Valentine's Day has been commercialized like almost every other holiday -- and like many other holidays, that has led to...oh, let's not beat around the bush here: if you don't have a date on Valentine's weekend, popular culture considers you to be something of a failure.

That's a lot of hooey. There are all sorts of reasons why people might not be paired off on a random day in mid-February. And some people who are paired off likely wish they weren't.

My only suggestion for getting through Valentine's weekend is that we all try to lower our expectations. If you have a date, great. If not, hey, it's one day. Stay away from romantic movies, and ads for flowers and jewelry. It'll all be over tomorrow.

So to those of you who are happily paired off today, happy Valentine's Day. To the rest of you, I'll see you at the drugstore tomorrow for half-price chocolate.

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Here's one bit of cheerful holiday news: I Heard It on the Radio is just 99 cents through next weekend. This anthology has something for everyone -- including a story by me. Consider it our Valentine to you, Dear Reader.

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These moments of black-hearted blogginess have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell.
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