Happy Valentine’s Day!
It’s one of the biggest marketing holidays out there, co-sponsored by the American Diabetes Association and the Roses-Don’t-Grow-in-February people. Still, it breaks up the winter doldrums, even if you don’t have someone in your life to buy stuff for, which is probably better if you’re a history buff.
Valentine’s Day’s history isn’t sweet at all. It’s remarkably grotesque.
Many people know the story of St. Valentine, the Christian martyr the Romans beheaded around 270AD. Historians think he may have been two historical people, powerful enough to turn a good beheading into a holiday about love.
Fewer know the holiday of Lupercalia, where Valentine’s Day might have originated. It was a day when Roman priests gathered, sacrificed a goat and a dog, and walked around town slapping women with blood-dipped hides.
That’d get you arrested today, but at the time, it was a good thing. The women were grateful–it was supposed to make them more fertile. They wanted babies to avoid extinction and to get more gifts at baby showers.
At the end of the day on Lupercalia, the priests pulled random names from jars pairing women with men for the year, “often leading to marriage.”
That’s so much easier than having to dress up, check phone apps, and go on dates. It’s time for a Lupercalia comeback.
Lupercalia was the original Tinder meets Match.com…and it was invented by religious dudes. You know what that means–God invented Tinder and he wants you to use it.
But that’s not the only cool thing about Valentine’s Day…
The British and French believed February 14 to be the beginning of bird mating season.
The French invented fine chocolate after Columbus stole sugar and from the new world and slave traders kidnapped half the world to grow it, helping the French to determine everything tasted better with a buttload of sugar and a pretty garnish. The French invented fine chocolate just in time for bird mating season. That’s how mating became associated with fine chocolate.
However, English and Irish food were terrible. The British were always jealous of French cooking, so the two were destined to fight on many continents for centuries to come.
I always celebrated Valentine’s Day with my best friend growing up. She was a model. I never had a date. I’m grateful we made friend-Valentines for each other so I didn’t I feel like a loser.
Now, as a teacher, I smile watching BFFs celebrate Valentine’s Day at school.
Bears, candy, gifts. “Awwww, that’s nice,” I say. “They’re going to fight on Snapchat in six months,” is what I don’t say.
I hear the guys at school planning to take their girls to “a nice dinner,” which probably means they’ll spring for dessert from the dollar menu. Some have teddy bears for the loves of their lives.
“Awww, that’s nice.” I say. “Are you going to be dating each other’s best friends soon?” is what I don’t say.
I tell them all to have a happy Valentine’s Day. “Remember, her Dad’s really big.”
My son’s still little. He says, “I love you, Mom,” and hates girls. We’re safe for a while. “I ate all the candy from my cards.” That’s what he loves about Valentine’s Day–candy. He would have liked the French.
I’m glad he goes to a school that still allows candy. Most schools don’t. “Obesity crisis,” this and “Not good for you,” that. Let the kids have some fun before they grow up and realize life isn’t about candy at all–it’s about paying taxes, which is the next national holiday on the docket after the Ides of March.
I hope you have a fun Valentine’s Day whether you’re with that special person or not. Take a moment to thank the French for adding sugar to chocolate and God for inventing Tinder.
Most important of all, after you’re done appreciating everyone you love, don’t forget to show appreciation to the dearest person in your life–the one you most often forget to appreciate and treat well… YOU!