Thursday, February 8, 2007

Romance in a Mass-Produced Envelope: The History of Valentine's Day

It could be the most important decision of your life. You stand there, pale and sweating, your eyes besieged by the endless aisles of red-satin boxes and cheaply-made plastic flower bouquets. Should you go with chocolate, or is that "so 2007"? Should there be roses, tulips, or carnations....hmmmm, which one of those is for funerals? And didn't a commercial just inform you that you are completely worthless unless you buy some sort of chain with a series of pretty rocks attached? My GOD, What do you do?

You begin to convince yourself that a nice set of fishing lures will last longer, AND have the added benefit of creating quality time for the two of you. Yeah, that's right - fishing lures! But wait, something is telling you..yes, there is definitely a distinct part of your primitive brain that is actually resisting this new theory. Your face flushes, your hands twitch, your feet begin sweating with frustrated vigor.

"Wait a minute!" you exclaim, "What has led me to this loathsome circumstance? What monstrous alchemy of human mechanism evolved itself into these wretched circumstances? Whose idea WAS this, Anyway!!'

Well, noble explorer of bath-stores and cheap seasonal holiday carts, here are some highlights from the bounteous and scented history of Valentine's Day:

- The ancient world often associated mid-February with fertility. The Roman holiday of Lupercalia was held on February 15 to purify new life and increase fertility. The Greek Month of Gamelion was dedicated to the blessed marriage of Zeus and Hera (without swan references, of course).

- 23,019 BC Gogak the Hog-Killer was the first to romance his potential mate by picking flowers. Although poisonous and resulting in an embarrassing rash, the flowers were appreciated and spun the phrase "It's the almost-thought that kind-of counts"

- 100 AD Valentinius of Alexandria was born. An early Bishop of Rome, Valentinius believed that the marriage chamber was actually important, causing numerous huffs and puffs and an occasional fainting.

- 496 Pope Gelasius I declared the "Feast of St. Valentine", referring to an earlier martyred saint (different than Valentinius) whose birth and death are not confirmed. Little is known about this early saint, although it may be a priest who was executed in the 3rd century by Cladius II. Incidentally, no cards were sent.

- 1382 Chaucer writes the first recorded correlation of Valentine's day with romantic love in his "Parlement of Foules". It is possible that the traditions of modern Valentines Day did not exist before Chaucer's writing, but rather started to come into their own around this time.

- Earliest surviving Valentine was a poem written by Charles the Duke of Orleans to his wife in 1415. Of course, being imprisoned in the Tower of London tends to bring out the romantic in you.

- English settlers bring the concept of Valentines day to North America in the 19th century. Hundreds of chocolate executives gathered in a dark room to laugh maniacally and rub their hands together (with actual organ music playing in the background).

- The first mass-production of Valentine cards began after 1847 by Esther Howland of Worchester, Massachusetts, whose father owned a stationary store.

- 1891 first case of "Valentine Insomnia", as New Jersey third-grader Herbert Bard debated whether Susy from school loved him based on the size of a mandatory Valentine card. Also first recorded case of broken heart by "cooties".

- 1929 In a sweeping gesture of romance, ol' softy Al Capone guns down seven members of a rival gang, forever known as the St. Valentine's Day Massacre.

- As television and mass production sink deeply into the American psyche during the 20th century, Valentine's Day becomes increasingly associated with gifts and the gift-card industry. Some husbands claim this is good, as they can sum up all their love in one convenient, logical gesture. Other's claim this is bad because now they have to remember their anniversary AND Valentine's day. Two whole days? "What is this," they claim, "some kind of cruel joke?"

- 1980's The Diamond Industry begins actively courting the American public to associate Valentine's Day with their product. Although they aren't edible, diamonds are generally considered "interesting to look at", so the plan, of course, works.

- 2007 Valentine's Day is a worldwide phenomenon. For many, it is a day of love, generosity, and appreciation. Sappy? Yes, but heartfelt....and in the end that is all that matters.

- 2008 Sushi executives gather in secret chamber to plot their new wave of association advertisements. Coming soon: "Sushi: Because Romance is in the Guts"

Well, there you have it. Now quit being a wimp and buy something. And make it nice, will ya? Ol' St. Valentine is watching!

5 comments:

devon said...

"Romance in a Mass-Produced Envelope..." Hahahahah!!!!

I mean, come on! Everybody knows that guys buy crappy gifts (although I do like your fishing lure suggestion).

I tend to favor the chocolate route. Whoever came up with that gift idea was pretty clever. She wants the chocolate, but not the fat. Make 'em anguish a bit.

Who says romance is gone...? :)

Jarod said...

I hear you. Romance is not gone, there are plenty of hungover clown-a-grams ready to kazoo at a moment's notice!

DigitalRich said...

Many thanks for participating in the 3rd edition of Carnival of the Storytellers!

The edition is now posted and can be found at:
http://digitalrich.blogspot.com/2007/02/carnival-of-storytellers-3rd-edition.html

DigitalRich

BlondebutBright said...

What a great history! When in doubt - just do some research. :)

Jarod said...

Very True BbB. I figure if I ever get to send a Valentine, what lady wouldn't appreciate the hours of research into the latest in fine wood-carving tools or English long-bows. Either one the perfect gift! That's right, world, I'm an old romantic! Look out! (kazoos, confetti)