St. Valentine’s Day

13 02 2014

I’ve never really been a materialistic person. Well, I will admit that in fifth grade I was pretty jealous of Jamie Staples’ hammer hammer-pantspants. She was the first girl in our school to get them, and I longed for a pair of those oh-so-cool, flapping-in-the-breeze hip-hop paraphernalia. But with few other exceptions, I’m the one to say, “meh, no thanks.” When it comes to holidays, my family abhorred me for being so difficult to shop for. I finally developed a simple rule to avoid collecting things: All gifts must be consumable within one year. This left the door wide open for experience-based gifts, and candles.

blood diamond adfrigid card

From the get-go, I’ve never really understood Valentine’s Day. What’s there to like about something that is solely focused on perpetuating the stereotype that women must have things to be happy. Yet 62% of Americans celebrate February 14th. We spend $20 BILLION dollars annually to not disappoint our lovers on Feb. 14th. We need to feed an industry of chemically fertilized and overpriced red flowers, because nothing but red will do in February! How dare a man offer something that costs less than $50 for twelve stinking flowers?!? Over 220 million roses are grown specifically for this one day. Seriously. And diamonds? Please. Why don’t you give me a child prostitute smuggled from Cambodia while you’re at it. I’d rather eat dirt than receive a diamond, with all the horrid things that go on in that industry. However, for the 6 million couples who will be getting engaged on Friday, diamonds are the industry standard.

tramping cardSo, I never celebrated this silly commercial holiday. Never once in 14 years with my ex did we exchange gifts or fight the hoards of nascent relationships who insisted on going out to a nice dinner this ONE night out of the year. But when I met my soulmate, I began to find myself rejoicing in any and all opportunities to celebrate love. Even this one.

On our first Valentine’s Day, we were not ‘together.’ I was living a dream that my marriage to a man would continue to yield complete   satisfaction, but was becoming increasingly aware that what I considered happy was really not accurate. No, I was never UN-happy. I am an optimist, and I live my life to the fullest possible. I was an 8 or 9 on the good ole’ happiness scale. Problem was, when I met her (now my wife), I realized the scale went up to 20. Oops.happiness-streetsign

I have since tried to redefine this Valentine’s Day tradition. Let us reclaim it as something meaningful, not just an overly commercialized pile of heartache and indigestion. So, with this mission, I began to research what this holiday truly stems from.

sexist home card

What I found was a little disturbing. Some of the vintage St. Valentine’s cards from the 1900-1930 era are downright shocking. It’s deplorable to someone a hundred years later to imagine that these sheets of cardboard were intended as a romantic gesture. Or perhaps their sense of humor was better than I give them credit for? I think not.threatening worm card

The Romans kicked this party off right with Lubercalia, a raucus fertilization party. Cuz, I don’t know about you, but it’s a wee bit chilly to be gettin naked this time of year without some sort of incentive. Later, around the 5th century, the Christians wanted to ‘purify’ this festival, so they started referencing the Valentines (there were many). The Valentines honored on February 14 are Valentine of Rome (Valentinus presb. m. Romae) and Valentine of Terni.

StValentine of romeOne of the Saint Valentines, the one from Rome, was actually sentenced to DEATH because he was secretly performing marriage ceremonies after the ruler declared marriage to be ILLEGAL for Roman men. This marriage ban was because Claudius II deemed single men to be better soldiers. (You might also recall that homosexuality records stem from the Roman era).

It wasn’t until the 15th century, some 1,000 years later, that the tradition of exchanging letters or cards on St. Valentine’s Day became a somewhat common tradition. Mass produced cards came into play around the 1840s, right in line with printing presses. Today, some 1 billion cards are sent annually. Do you have any idea how many trees we have to cut down to make all those cute red cards? It’s 300,000 trees. That’s approximately 3,500 acres of trees.alone card

Despite the social pressure, the insane media hype, and the relative historical norm, I would like to ask you to celebrate differently. What is Valentine’s Day really about? Love? Sex? Fertility? Do you need to go broke just to fulfill the GDP? I urge you, find ways to celebrate locally. Like, REALLY locally. Cook a nice dinner at home, or order in something really special if you are not kitchen-inclined, but source it from a local restaurant. Even a novice can prepare decadent truffles! Instead of cut flowers, buy a potted plant. Nothing says, “I’m in it for the long haul,” quite like a rose bush, after all. And if you’re determined to profess your undying affection to your one true love, use her birth stone, not a blood diamond. She may not understand at first, but perhaps you can both educate yourselves by watching the movie together after you make sweet, sweet love by the fireplace (on the faux fur rug, of course).two women 1900 cardlesbian ecard

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