Do you celebrate Valentine's like a Saint, a pagan, or a mobster?
Valentine's Day is almost upon us. At least, that's what the stores have been telling us since December 26th. Many single people are cynical about it, but Valentine's Day is known as the day of the heart.
What keeps the heart flowing? Blood. And with that in mind, I'd like to offer an alternative to the singles out there. You could always celebrate Al Capone day instead. That's right, forget disgusting mushiness and celebrate disgusting massacres instead!
This year, Valentine's Day marks the 76th anniversary of the Valentine's Day Massacre in Chicago. Many people attribute it to Chicago's most famous whiskey bootlegger, Capone, although it was never proven. Six of the seven men killed were mobsters working under rival bootlegger "Bugs" Moran and were lined up along a brick wall inside the S.M.C Cartage Co. Garage before being riddled with bullets by Tommy guns.
Where did Valentine's Day really get its start, though? Like many holidays it's history is a bit shrouded in mystery. Some claim catholic beginnings while others claim that the church simply used it as a way to mask a current pagan celebration.
According to the Catholic Encyclopedia online at www.newadvent.org, there are at least three different martyred Saint Valentines listed in the early martyrologies under the date of February 14. One was a priest in Rome, another was a bishop of Interamna, and little is known about the third except that he suffered in Africa. The encyclopedia explains that today's customs could be based on the belief during the middle ages that mid-February is when birds began to pair.
Most legends surrounding the Catholic history of Valentine's Day focus on the priest from Rome. One legend contends that Emperor Claudius II decreed that single men were better soldiers than men with wives and families so he outlawed marriages for young men. The legend goes on to say that Valentine secretly continued to perform marriages for young couples, and was sentenced to death when he was discovered.
Other legends suggest that he might have been killed for helping Christians to escape Roman prisons.
Another legend even suggests that he actually sent the first Valentine himself. According to this legend, the imprisoned Valentine fell in love with a young girl who visited him during his confinement, and, before his death, he wrote her a letter, signing it "From your Valentine." Based on these stories, Valentine became one of the most popular saints in England and France during the Middle Ages.
Many believe that Valentine's is celebrated during February to honor these stories and also his death or burial, while others claim that the church really did it in order to convert pagans during the celebrations of the pagan Lupercalia festival.
The Lupercalia festival was a fertility and purification festival dedicated to Faunus, the Roman god of Agriculture as well as to Romulus and Remus, the Roman founders. Roman priests would gather at a cave where it is believed that Romulus and Remus were cared for by a she-wolf. They would sacrifice a goat for fertility and a dog for purification. According to legend, later in the day, men would go around slapping women and fields of crops with bloodied goat hide strips to increase fertility.
This really gives women something to think about. You might think your guy is the most unromantic. You may think that, even though he tries, a power tool or a subscription to weight watchers is not the ideal gift. Don't complain, though. Born in another century, you could have been slapped with a goat hide strip instead!
As horrid as that may sound to some today, women during that time actually welcomed it, believing it would increase their fertility. Later in the day, bachelors would draw names out of an urn to become paired with a woman for a year, and many of these matches ended in marriage.
Now that you are empowered with some history about this mushy holiday, you have more options for celebration than the traditional greeting card and flowers. Those who have a problem with the diapered archer known for wreaking havoc this time of the year can take comfort. Instead of buying the well known flowers and chocolates, perhaps flowers and a submachine gun will suffice.