Valentine’s Day is February 14th and one billion Valentine cards will be shipped worldwide. One billion affirmations of love and affection! Add to that tons of candy and perhaps a few diamonds and we have a celebration of love that might actually shift the consciousness of the planet. Unfortunately all it does is feed the profit margin of greeting card companies.
The only thing I know about Valentine’s Day is the 1929 Saint Valentine’s Day Massacre in Chicago when Al Capone’s Italians gunned down seven of Bugs Moran’s Irish. I always assumed this was contrary to the spirit of the day, but it turns out I was wrong. There are three saints called Valentine who vie for the honor of being THE Saint Valentine and all three of them were murdered: Valentine of Rome was martyred around 269 CE, Valentine of Terni was killed during the persecution of Christians in 197 CE, and a Valentine about whom nothing is known except that he was martyred in Africa. So blood and murder rather than candy and diamonds are the real traditions of the holiday.
How did we get from martyrs to lovesick chocoholics? I’m coming to that. But first I think it is important to note that the original love celebrated on Valentine’s Day was love of Christ. These three Valentines were killed because of their love of their Lord and their faith. Jews, Christians, and Muslims love their martyrs. There is something about dying for one’s religion that speaks powerfully of… what?
What idea would I be willing to die for? This is a very different question than its corollary, what idea would I be willing to kill for. I’d being willing to kill you for disagreeing with me about the merits of mint chocolate chip ice cream, the musical quality of the Beatles White Album, and even which Dr. Who is the real Dr. Who. But die? No thanks. I’d rather live to think another thought another day.
But it might be wise to have one day each year set aside to explore where love turns bloody. And this is where the romance comes in.
There is a legend about another Valentine who was rejected by his mistress. This Valentine was so distraught that he took a knife and cut out his own heart and shipped it (still beating!) to his lover as a token of his undying love.
Lots of questions here. How did he manage to cut out his heart, take a coach to the local UPS (or the equivalent of his day), stand in line for who knows how long, wait to have the heart (still beating!) boxed, gift wrapped, and addressed, and still have the strength to pull out his purse and pay for the shipping? And why did he think his girlfriend would prefer a bloody heart (still beating!) to flowers? If this is the kind of taste he had, she was probably right to dump him. And why would this kind of behavior catch on? How many men cut their own hearts out before someone invented the Valentine’s Day card instead?
But the big question is why did this guy become a Saint? He wasn’t a martyr. All he did was commit suicide. You don’t need Jesus for that. At least the other Valentines died because someone else hated what they loved, rather than kill themselves because of what they loved. If the latter had caught on Christianity would die out in a generation.
So, lots of problems with this holiday. But I am not ready to give up on it yet. I just want to get back to tradition.
Here are some suggestions. First, a great seasonal home business would be to make a plastic wind-up beating heart (like plastic chattering teeth) that people could send to their loved ones. Second, more religiously minded people might sell chocolate relics of the Valentines (bones, teeth, hair, still beating hearts) to be given as gifts for the holiday. Third, those with a more secular humanist bent could donate their heart to an organ bank in the name of their loved one. The recipient of the heart would be required to visit the designated loved one every Valentine’s Day. Nothing says “I love you” like a visit from the heart of a dead lover.
My own preference, however, is to spend the day thinking about for what and for whom I would die. I know most of us would be willing to die for our kids, but those of us who actually have children can probably remember moments when we wanted to kill them, so let’s not be too smug.
Anyway, Happy Valentines Day.