by Mike Bay
February 14 is upon us once again. St. Valentine's Day. A day remembered for that special someone (or someones). But what exactly is the origin of this particular holiday? Who was St. Valentine, and how did he -- and/or Cupid -- come to symbolize this annual celebration of love?
As you've come to dread, I took a bit of an historical look at this unusual holiday. After all, I've looked at it from the standpoint of men's alleged lack of romance and the conspiratorial aspects of the holiday on prior occasions. And as you've come to expect, I've never let a lack of knowledge on something stop me from weighing in on it in my own, inimitable, full of snarf way.
So . . . what do we really know about Valentine's Day?
St. Valentine's Day came about as the result of the alleged martyrdom of one or possibly two legendary persons. Both were Romans of the 3rd Century AD. One was a Roman priest and physician, who fell victim to the persecution of Christians by liberals of the ACLU.
Oops . . . wrong era.
He allegedly fell victim to the machinations of Emperor Claudius II Gothicus -- losing his head in the process -- and was buried on the Via Flaminia in Rome. According to one legend, Pope St. Julius I would later build a basilica over the gravesite, in what could be a modern-day parallel to Jimmy Hoffa and the Meadowlands Sports complex in New Jersey, with emphasis placed on the word could.
OR, he may have been a bishop of Terni (Italy), who was just as martyred, also in Rome, by the same emperor, probably in the same non-surgically imprecise manner, and for probably similar reasons. Either way, the martyrdom of one/both of these extinguished gentlemen resulted in the establishment of St. Valentine's Day -- a lovers' festival -- approximately 10 centuries later.
At any rate, about 300 years after the establishment of St. Valentine's Day, an obscure Italian artist -- Vincent Guido Frontino Guglielmi Hallmarko -- created what is theorized to be the mother of all greeting cards. Until about 1800, paper valentines (variations of Hallmarko's first designs) were the norm. After 1800, and in response to rising demand by persons wishing to honor their lovers with the memory of headless martyrs, hand-painted copper plates were produced. From these eventually sprang wood cuts, lithographs, chocolate hearts, the Franklin Mint, and finally mass-produced greeting cards.
So much for the basis of the holiday. (?!) Now let me compound the confusion by delving into the other mentioned part of the love equation: Cupid.
Most of you recognize Cupid: an impish infant with wings, who flits around with a bow and quivver of arrows, shooting them into various and sundry, leaving his victims smitten with love, lust, passion, and occasional clothing repair bills. Despite that, Cupid somehow managed to keep his head, which suggests to me he came along later in this equation.
Cupid's association with Valentine's Day makes sense: he was the ancient Roman god of love. The son of Mercury (the messenger) and Venus (goddess of flytraps), Cupid became a ready symbol for all things denoting love. A counterpart to the Greek god Eros; an equivalent to Amor, of Latin poetry. Even a weekend ale-swilling, arrow-splitting chum of Robin Hood. Cupid made the rounds, and in so doing became a world-wide symbol routinely associated with Valentine's Day.
And that proved only the beginning.
In America -- a heretofore heaven and target-rich environment for Cupid -- religious fundamentalists objected to Cupid's "immoral, immodest attire" in his public appearances. Radical feminists objected to Cupid's contributions toward "the enslavement of women to male domination.” Behaviorists objected to the symbolism of Cupid shooting arrows at others, suggesting this was furthering a positive image of violence to youth in society. Gun control advocates objected to his being armed with "a deadly weapon"; Native American activists objected to both the image of the bow and arrow, as well as the fact that Cupid hailed from the same homeland as did Christopher Columbus. The media hounded him; the tabloids had a 'print everything and anything negative' heyday with him.
Amid increasing controversies and distractions, Cupid's Nerf-shafted arrows increasingly missed the mark. He took to weekend binges on vodka-soaked gummy bears, denied knowing what the definitions of "is" and "sex" meant in any context, and even stooped so low as to air embellished, sensationalized 'dirty laundry' on Jenny Jones and Ricki Lake, even getting into a set-wrecking brawl on Jerry Springer.
All Cupid had ever represented was almost irretrievably wrecked, and he was temporarily reduced to being key grip on the camera crew of Survivor.
Today -- in spite of some continuing controversy by groups with nothing better to do than whine like the Democratic Gong Show Nine presidential candidates about tax cuts and defending ourselves -- Cupid perseveres as a representative symbol of love and St. Valentine's Day. It's just in certain places -- Washington DC, San Francisco, parts of Denver and Newark, NJ -- that he feels obliged to wear dark glasses, a wig, denim overalls, and now uses a paint ball gun (paint balls loaded with biodegradeable, FDA approved Love Potion #9).
Not quite as effective as heretofore.
So there you have it. Now, armed with this knowledge of what you're celebrating, go forth and do up the holiday right for that “light of your life.” Take her to a dinner, show, lavish her with gifts expressing what she means to you. Later, as the two of you perhaps indulge in a pleasurable adult interlude, she might get around to asking you why St. Valentine's Day is celebrated thus. You'll now have the answer: you're commemorating an ancient beheaded Roman and a naked, culturally-maligned midget Roman mythological character with a William Tell complex.
Or . . . you might opt for the wiser, more practical "I don't know, honey" answer.
Mike Bay is a free-lance humor writer and accomplished ceiling pencil sticker during writers' block. Born in Iowa, subsisting in Colorado, he has parental and other ancestral links on both sides of the Mason-Dixon line. He's a former newspaper columnist, a member of the NetWits and National Society of Newspaper Columnists, and has been published in the quarterly Satire, on various websites and ezines, on his very own website (outofthinair) and in an upcoming book, Serenade of the Stinkweed, an anthology of marital experiences by Jeanni Brosius, Bandal Books. A life-long bachelor, he's still waiting to receive his BS in it, and trying to figure out why he needs a degree to prove what he's full of.
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Gravity Bites . . . or
A Turkey of a Recipe
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