Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Bah Humbug!

This marks the beginning of my favorite anti-ritual. I do not fancy myself a Scrooge. I can find the good in most things. However, there are some things that I can neither justify nor abide. February is the home to one of these such things—Valentine’s Day. I occurred to me that I don’t know a thing about the holiday that I despise so much. So, this year we are going to start off with a history lesson.

Saint Valentine's Day is an annual holiday held on February 14 celebrating love and affection between intimate companions. [barf] The holiday is named after one or more early Christian martyrs named Valentine and was established by Pope Gelasius I in 496 AD. It is traditionally a day on which lovers express their love for each other by presenting flowers, offering confectionery, and sending greeting cards (known as "valentines"). The holiday first became associated with romantic love in the circle of Geoffrey Chaucer in the High Middle Ages, when the tradition of courtly love flourished.
Numerous early Christian martyrs were named Valentine. The Valentines honored on February 14 are Valentine of Rome (Valentinus presb. m. Romae) and Valentine of Terni (Valentinus ep. Interamnensis m. Romae). Valentine of Rome was a priest in Rome who was martyred about AD 269 and was buried on the Via Flaminia. His relics are at the Church of Saint Praxed in Rome. and at Whitefriar Street Carmelite Church in Dublin, Ireland.
Valentine of Terni became bishop of Interamna (modern Terni) about AD 197 and is said to have been martyred during the persecution under Emperor Aurelian. He is also buried on the Via Flaminia, but in a different location than Valentine of Rome. His relics are at the Basilica of Saint Valentine in Terni (Basilica di San Valentino)
No romantic elements are present in the original early medieval biographies of either of these martyrs. By the time a Saint Valentine became linked to romance in the fourteenth century, distinctions between Valentine of Rome and Valentine of Terni were utterly lost.

Before Chaucer began his flowery writing, romance and Valentine’s were not even mention in the same room let alone the same breath. I am left to marvel at how the connection was ever made? The martyrs weren’t even two lovers. That makes for epic tradition.

I’ll leave you all to ponder this history lesson and I will let the seething begin tomorrow.