Hello Dearest Readers:
A lot of you have been asking me to clarify the history of St. Valentine’s day, and how it came to be celebrated as we celebrate it today. Well, since there is no greater expert on things both historically accurate and romantic, I RRRT (The third R is for “romance”), will be your guide in to the true meaning of St. Valentine’s Day!
In ancient Rome did Kubla Khan a stately pleasure dome decree, around 237 years AD. Kubla Khan, known to Roman history buffs as simply as Khan, was marooned on City Alpha Five. Unlike Rome, City Alpha 5 was once a fertile place, but it quickly became a barren wasteland full of ear-bugs and leather headbands. Khan was an early martyr, and Tiberius cursed his name loudly whenever possible. Before Khan’s death, he decreed a pleasure-dome, with all the finest ladies that he could stack into a dome, and this was the first Valentine’s Day. February 14th is known as Valentine’s Day today because of an error in the early Latin transcription of “KHAAAAAAAAAAN!”. Flipped upside-down, the tablet reads something like”NVVVVVVVVVHK”, to which a Roman scribe is purported to have remarked “That’s a lot of V’s today. What is this? V day? Let us bathe and eat lead!”
According to the World Book Junior Encyclopedia, one of the earliest mentions of Valentine’s Day in connection with romantic love was in Chaucer’s “Parlement of Foules” (Not to be mistaken with the “Parliament of Fools” circa 2012 in Canada, nor with “Parliament/Funkadelic”. Our Current Prime Minister in Canada, Bootsy Collins, is doing his best to remedy things).
Chaucer’s use of the metaphor of lovebirds to explore romantic ideas was the first recorded mention of Valentine’s Day in this new, sexier context. Precious to this work, Valentine’s day had mostly been about how many Christians a lion could eat before he got bored or full. Romans, despite their cruelty, discovered the answer is roughly six Christians per lion, or “VI X / < ” .
Excerpt from Parlement of Foules:
For this was seynt on Valentynys Day,
Whan euery bryd cometh, there to chose his mate
Yea, euery bryd, like boobies aynd tits,
And swullen cocks puffed up and redd.
not to meynshun all the bytches,
Whar are alle my bytches at?
Throwe ye handes uppe in the aire,
Ande wave them like ye juste careth nott.
Valentine’s Day and poetry have long been intertwined. In fact, according to the Hallmark(TM) wiki “Guiltipedia”, the cliche “roses are red” poem goes all the way back to 1590, and Edmund Spenser’s “The Faerie Queene”, which contains this passage:
She bathed with roses red, and violets blew
And all the sweetest flowres, that in the forrest grew.
Notyce ye how I spelt it “blew”?
I got ye a carde, hop to it.
Spenser’s work was somewhat less classy than that of his contemporaries. Valentine’s poems soon gave way to Valentine’s cards, and it should come as no surprise that even as early as the beginning of the 18th century, gentlemen lacking poetic flair were being sold commercial cards. Common Victorian motifs and themes included lace, delicate typesetting and woodcut illustrations of, for example, a man in blackface raping slaves from India over the bare ass of Queen Victoria herself. What may seem racist today was taken as playful in the context of the time. Humorous phrases were often printed under these illustrations, saying things like “I’d rape you over the Queen any day!” or “Roses are red, Violets are blew, see what I did there? Suck my dick”.
Of course, in North America the greeting card is a way to apologize for any amount of immense historical misogyny, and incidentally for any dropping of an atomic bomb on your country. Records indicate Robert Oppenheimer sent a card to Japan featuring a cherub coyly overlooking a broken vase, captioned “Oopsies! I dwopped it!”. Schoolchildren were asked to enact Valentine’s day rituals, an activity which became immensely popular in the 1950′s. Of course, the times always influence the popular culture, and one of the most memorable sets of pre-printed Valentine’s were the “Li’l Johnny Doomsday” collection, featuring the classic Valentine “I’d duck and cover under you, any day!”. Oppenheimer himself made a set of cards for the youngsters which sold poorly, probably due to the morose and unromantic passages from the Bhagavad Gita. The Manhattan Project lost the Sweet Tarts contract on the basis of the difficulty of fitting the phrase “Now, I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds” onto a single candy. The Sweet Tarts manufacturers instead spurned the finest scientific minds of the post-war era, and shortened the phrase to “I wuv you”.
It goes without saying that Valentine’s Day is a huge commercial enterprise, and the mere existence of the day brings paid dating sites their second largest influx of customers next to the the new year. eHarmony offers free communication around Valentine’s day, and Plenty Of Fish offers crabs and a long hard cry in the shower.
Whatever the history, Valentine’s Day is a complex holiday rooted deeply in traditions. Perhaps in future, we will look back on this time of year as the horrible, soul-sucking time when George Lucas started re-releasing the apocryphal Star Wars prequels in 3D.