Wednesday, February 14, 2007

A Happy Valentine’s Day to all.

I thought it would be worth a post discussing the origins of this most polarizing of holidays, which produces a flurry of emotion, ranging from the height of happiness and romance to the gall of bitterness and despair. However, in researching the genesis of this holiday, it is difficult to differentiate where fact ends and fiction begins.
The earliest documentation of any celebration of the Ides of February (from the Latin term februum, meaning ‘$4.25 for a card!? You gotta be kidding me!’) is given to us by Plutarch, was in ancient Rome as a festival of purification, with young men running through the streets naked. This tradition ended abruptly when there was a street scheduling conflict and the naked young men ended up running with the bulls.
While this gives us an idea where the date comes from, it is more difficult to decipher how the holiday received its name. Some scholars maintain that Valentines Day was named after Valentine of Genoa, an early bishop who died around 307 AD. According to legend, Valentine broke up with his girlfriend the day before her birthday so he wouldn’t have to buy her a gift. He told a fellow clergyman he was going to try and get back in her good graces with chocolate and roses. His broken body was found the next day…but with no sign of the chocolate or flowers.
Early References
How the melding of the name and date came to be, as well as there reference to love, is a source of conflict. Most are from the English poet Geoffrey Chaucer. In one of his first works, Parlement of Foules (1382), he pens the following in honor of the first anniversary of King Richard II and Anne of Bohemia:
For this was on seynt Volantynys day
Whan euery bryd comyth there to chese his make.
From the awful spelling, it was readily apparent Chaucer was responsible for all the wine that had disappeared the night before; Richard booted him out of the country and Chaucer ended up wandering the countryside naked until Heather Ledger found him and made him part of his possee in “A Knights Tale”.

Hopefully this has helped shed some light on this wonderful day that is never really lives up the the hype, but that we still celebrate hoping this will be the year. In the words of the drunken poet, 'Hape Seynt Volantynys Day'!


Nathan said...

that was hilarious.

Mama Miriam said...

Paula makes you smile. You make me laugh.