Today is Valentine’s Day. I’m not a big fan.
As a prepubescent boy I got a lot of candy hearts from many a prepubescent girl who wanted to “be mine” or “kiss me.” I thought kissing a girl would be icky, but still I chewed their candy, got cavities, went to the dentist, and had a shrieking drill plunged into my rotten tooth.
The origin of Valentine’s Day is murky. In the third century CE Roman Emperor Claudius II executed two men named Valentine in two different years, both (by freaky coincidence) on February 14.
(The Romans didn’t fool around with wimpy things like impeachment.)
The Roman Catholic church canonized both Valentines as martyrs, established February 14 as St. Valentine’s Day, and bought stock in Hallmark, Cadbury, and FTD.
(I can’t swear to the stock purchase bit, but it wouldn’t surprise me.)
From February 13 to 15, the Romans celebrated the feast of Lupercalia to venerate and invigorate sexuality and fertility. Men sacrificed goats and dogs and then romped naked through the streets whipping women with thongs cut from the hides of the slain animals.
(Eat your heart out, QAnon!)
In the fifth century Pope Gelasius combined Lupercalia and St. Valentine’s Day hoping to squelch the pagan fertility revelries. Men complained, but dogs and goats sang te deum laudamus at the top of their lungs.
(I can’t swear to the te deum bit, but it wouldn’t surprise me.)
Shakespeare romanticized Valentine’s Day.
My lips, two blushing pilgrims, ready stand / To smooth that rough touch with a tender kiss.
(If only those candy hearts had borne such poetry, I might have dared a kiss!)
And thus a tradition was born. In 1913 Hallmark Cards of Kansas City, Missouri, cheerfully adopted it. Valentine’s Day became a $20 billion bonanza.
I’m not a fan. I’m not a fan of bonbons, teddy bears, or heart-imprinted underpants.
But I am a fan of love songs.
I Just Called to Say I Love You. Something. I Will Always Love You. Wonderful Tonight. Love Me Tender. Annie’s Song. Ain’t No Mountain High Enough. At Last. Endless Love.
And that’s just a start.
It’s hard to pick a favorite. But I do have one: “In Spite of Ourselves,” by John Prine.
It’s a quirky song but then so is true love.
HAPPY VALENTINE’S DAY.
In spite of this blog!
See Paula’s photo “Tree Spirits” on the home page. Posted Jan. 31
Appreciate your words. The inclusion/exclusion factor, the ‘who’s got one’, the heartbreak suffering, the loneliness of some … all brought to you by a misunderstood quasi-religious, commercially bastardized hollow day. Ick.
Randy, you’re the Grinch that stole Val Day! Linda and I are about to observe the great moment by exchanging our cards over coffee and biscotti. Now, what’s better than that? …well, okay a few things…but still… 🙂 🙂 🙂 Thanks for your usual chuckle filled Devils Gift.
I [just] learned history & facts that take the cute out of Valentine’s Day. I was one of those little girls putting deep thot into each Valentine I wrote & placed into each paper bag with a name of each classmate… My dad always reminded us of the crass commercialism, yet mom sure did expect a card, candy & flowers! Now, Love Songs are the appreciated sweets of today & your list has us humming … John Prine for sure! And I’ll add “Unchained Melody” (o, my love, my darling, I hunger for your touch…I need your love… God speed your love – to me”). ?
Revisionist history that shellacs brutality with layers of fabricated love gives rise to such as Qanon. I wonder if the Vatican might consider conferring sainthood on Fact, for it has surely been executed more than any other throughout history. In the meantime, this bit of wisdom remains relevant: BE the love. ❤
Thank you Randy for the history of this day, including your spinning it out to the present. I never heard this song of John Prine’s before; I love it and that he’s singing with Iris DeMent. As for the Messrs. Valentine, their martyrdom is so bloody and gory, not at all lofty as it’s intended for us to perceive it. Hope you have a lot of chocolate bunnies or at least some hot cinnamon hearts.
ps-And thank you Ardyth for including “Unchained Melody”, one of the most beautiful songs ever.
Perry and I danced in our living room to Linda Ronstadt’s version of “Ooh Baby Baby” after our usual after church Sunday brunch! Got cards and a lovely dinner from The Press Room on Friday. Holidays, even silly ones, are important as we live in a time of COVID. We need to be extra kind to each other
You have to wonder how humanity has survived. Some of the excesses of the Romans and the Catholics make the Proud Boys look awfully wimpy. But moving on to love songs there are so many classics, but my nomination stems from a night shortly after we moved to DC many years ago, when we went to a jazz room up behind The Hill on Pennsylvania Ave. called Mr. Henry’s and sat there holding hands while Washington’s own Roberta Flack caressed the mic with her signature song, “The First Time.” It’s a good thing we were already married!