This Day in History 2/14: “St. Valentine” is Beheaded (or not)

“If Jesus had been killed twenty years ago, Catholic school children would be wearing little electric chairs around their necks instead of crosses.” – Lenny Bruce

Saint Valentine--we think

I’ve been really sick the past few days, so the Neighborhood’s been getting a little seedy.

Since I’m feeling better today, it’s time for us males to find someone to blame for this incessant buying spree of roses, chocolates and reservations.  That person is, of course, Saint Valentine.

Or is it?

If you thought that the overhyped lovefest that is Valentine’s Day is bad enough, consider that St. Valentine may not have even existed.  The first mention of him is in the late 5th century, and he is either a priest, an African martyr, a bishop, or whatnot.  No mention of love, hearts, Hallmark or candy.  At least not yet.

It wouldn’t be until a millenium later, in 1493, that we get a somewhat thorough account of the Saint Valentine story.  In the Nuremburg Chronicle, the story goes that Saint Valentine was active marrying Christian couples and aiding other Christians during the late 3rd century.  He is imprisoned by Claudius II, who takes a shine to him–until Valentine tries to convert the emperor.  Enraged, Claudius orders his execution.  Beaten, stoned, Valentine was finally beheaded outside the Flaminian Gate in Rome, where his traditional burial place lies.

So where did the holiday come from?  We don’t really know.  The common explanation is that it was derived from a pagan holiday, Lupercalia; funny how the pagans make things more convenient for us.  Another explanation was that Geoffrey Chaucer popularized the holiday in his 1382 poem Parlement of Foules.  Notice his title: now think about how we males fret and fumble over this dreck.

Whatever the explanation, we are stuck with the consequences today.

Next Valentine’s Day, give your loved one a bloody ax.  It’s far more appropriate.

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