5 Sketchy Facts You Didn't Know About Valentine's Day
Good news! For yet another year, I am prepared to rock Valentine's Day like a hammock in a hurricane. I would share my schemes for the 14th so you can copy them as your own, but you'd have a difficult time even finding a blue garnet, let alone infiltrating the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue release party. But even though only one of us is going to have sex in space this year, that doesn't mean you have to sit home alone cursing the holiday.
Some folks hate Valentine's Day because it reminds them that they're alone, others because they have to make an effort. The solution is for the latter group to outsource their relationships to the lonely folks. But that's a lot of paperwork, so until the spreadsheet is complete, take heart: This entire holiday is a sham.
And I don't mean in the "excuse to sell greeting cards and candy" way. I mean that a historical examination reveals Valentine's Day to be so screwy, it's amazing people even bother falling in love these days. And I think it's all a big conspiracy.
Here's the twisted story of everything Valentine's Day isn't.
It's Based on Pure Legend
Valentine's Day celebrates the idea that true love finds us, and that idea shines in our hearts even amid our modern V-Day celebration of expensive dinners, cheap lingerie, and acrid candy that can only be legally called chocolate in America.
I'm looking at you, Whitman, you alkaline devils. But I'm not tasting you. I can't be hurt like that again.
That idea is based on the story of St. Valentine of Rome, a priest who married couples against the emperor's orders, because married men couldn't be drafted. That was at odds with Emperor Claudius Gothicus' plans to build an army of unfeeling terminators. That's right, there was a brief time when love was against the law and the ultimate crime was to follow your heart. Valentine put it all on the line to win, even winning the heart of his jailer's daughter ...
The third century was very 1980s in that love was a battlefield.
... and was executed. But victory was his, for true love never dies!
The reality is that Valentine appears to have been executed for much more traditional "pagan vs. Christian" theological debate reasons after neither he nor the emperor could convert the other. The ban on Roman soldiers getting hitched never actually occurred, and for good reason: Marriage benefited both Rome and the Legion. It'd cause less uproar to change the rules to draft married men than to ban them.
However, if you want to hate Claudius, there's his much more real, much more damnable statement that his army "had captured so many women that each victorious soldier could take two or three women each."
War: Making monsters of everyone since 200,000 B.C.
Well, great. Only one entry in and we're already looking at this month's most callous fiend on Cracked unless E. Reid Ross writes an Albert Fish retrospective.
Nobody Knows Which Valentine the Holiday Honors
Legend or no, St. Valentine of Hallmark shares billing with two other Sts. Valentine today, neither of whom had anything to do with love (and, thankfully, nothing to do with pillage).
Our Valentine may actually be the same guy as one of them: Valentine of Terni, a bishop who (probably?) died at the same time in (definitely) the same place. The records are muddled, and we know next to nothing about either martyr. The Roman Empire was a mess at that time, and an outlaw religion necessarily had to avoid keeping records. But that was 1,700 years ago, when Rome was still a corrupt bureaucracy in the thrall of a few vicious thugs looking to shift public ire to outsiders.
Italy is home to one of the world's oldest cultures, and maybe one day will stop living in it.
There are 14 Saints Valentin or Valentine (plus one Valentinian who doesn't count because I said so), three of whom died on February 14. That means 2 out of 14 Valentines are celebrated on 2/14, which has a 21.4 percent mortality rate for Valentines. Now, I don't know much about math, but I know a lot about conspiracy theory ramblings, where visually similar numbers indicate a clear plot by the Jewish reptoid freemasons who run the Vatican. If your name is Valentino, or Val, or even just Hart, I recommend you stay inside that day.
I mean, you were probably going to anyway, just to avoid everyone's terrible jokes, but don't answer the door if any Romans or lions ring the bell.
That was a joke. Never turn down a lion fight. What do you want, to live long enough to die of renal failure with no exciting stories?
Whether or not these two are the same person, neither one died to see love thrive, and they're sharing real estate with a third Valentine, who's the patron saint of nothing except dying unknown.
And the Duke of Milan had JUST pardoned him, poor, unlucky bastard.
So far, February 14 has as much in common with romance as my left hand, which is to say: all the feeling, none of the meaning, and with a serving of depression. Although both the holiday and my hand are connected to three dead foreigners who can no longer be identified. Interesting? Highly. Seductive? Only if you're E. Reid Ross.
The Romance Angle Is Relatively New
You know who agrees with me that so far this has been a thoroughly unsexy holiday comprised of aught but state-sanctioned crimes against humanity? A millennium of Western civilization. For roughly 1,000 years after the martyrdom of St. Valentine, this was just another holy remembrance day -- probably a day to reflect on all the things we've done wrong and maybe eat some cheese, which is the only hobby Europe had in those days besides war and playing the hurdy-gurdy.
It's only in the second half of the 14th century (see? CONSPIRACY!) that the print record finally shows shades of seduction. In the medieval Adam Sandler movies that are the works of Geoffrey Chaucer, Valentine's Day had become the romantic subplot. In "Parlement of Foules," he lays a pretty sexy scene: naked love goddesses, birds peacocking their way to sex-victory, and Nature herself "pricking to sweet pain." That's a whole lot of fetishes compressed into a single phrase, but Chaucer was a poet.
You don't want to read his erotic couplets about red-hot pokers.
So yeah, St. Valentine's Day has been a romantic holiday (possibly thanks to Chaucer) since the 14th century, but that's only about half as long as it was a time for personal reflection. And even after the switch, you know that England probably spent another 300 years baking sexy desserts like a sheep stomach wrapped around boiled fish heads.
The other half of the poem is about a Roman general pondering his own immortality before he commits genocide. Eroticism!
It Doesn't Exist Anymore
Still confused by all those Valentines running around Imperial Crisis-era Roman Empire? So are the people cataloging them! That's why at the Second Vatican Council Pope Paul VI eliminated all 12 feasts of St. Valentine from the Liturgical Calendar. How's that for a St. Valentine's Day massacre?
That's right: Valentine's Day hasn't really been St. Valentine's Day since 1969.
Their official reason was that they couldn't verify or distinguish most of the Sts. Valentine, but I think we all know the real cause. It was 1969, and the world was still suffering the effects of the Sex Crisis two years earlier, when the Summer of Love drained most of humanity's love reserves. Which, in turn, is why we needed more oil to lubricate our shameful sex acts, causing the energy crisis a few years after that.
With that, the holiday was unfettered, free to become a morass of Necco candy and roses purchased at a gas station at a 600 percent markup.
It's Originally a Fertility Holiday
But let's go all the way back to antiquity and see if we shouldn't celebrate it after all ... albeit more ingenuously.
The legend of Rome's founders, Romulus and Remus, says that as infants they were nursed in infancy by a wolf -- although the Latin word "lupa," or "she-wolf," was also a slang term for a prostitute. Rome preferred the wolf version of the legend, because it was embarrassing for a city founded in rape and fratricide to have its origins in sex work.
We shall call her Wolf Nurse.
All this took place in a cave called the Lupercal, which archaeologists probably unearthed in 2007. Wolf Nurse was honored every February 13 to 15 during Lupercalia -- although just to confuse things the holiday was primarily dedicated to the god Lupercus, a Latin name meaning "He who throws bitchin' parties." During "The Festival of the Wolf," his priests, the Brothers of the Wolf, dressed up in goatskins to honor him. Not wolfskins, because that would make sense, although he did have goat legs. Yeah, he was basically Pan.
He looks like every guy named Gary you've ever known.
Meanwhile, Rome's noble youths ran naked through the streets, giving zero fucks but many lashings to any woman they ran across "with shaggy thongs." This supposedly conferred healthy, hearty pregnancies, because babies are stronger when they're conceived in kink. That's a science FACT, friend, and you can look it up in your Encyclopedia Dominatio.
Cracked's lawyers prefer that I don't Photoshop a baby in a gimp mask, so enjoy this leather strop.
A great many ladies of the republic placed themselves in the way of these wildlings to have their hands stropped, because a healthy pregnancy begins with open wounds in a country that doesn't use soap.
Now, a lot of scholars will tell you that there isn't enough of a connection to call Lupercalia a precursor to Valentine's Day. But what do they know? They haven't even been flogged by werewolves, and so they cannot speak to the truth known by the human heart -- that love comes in many forms at many times, but if any of them loved you, they'd buy you chocolate.
Related reading: Brendan wanted to know What Love Is, and he wanted you to show him. He also unveiled more holiday mysteries in 5 Reasons Cinco de Mayo Is the Most American Holiday.
Do you have a pop culture muse? Channel it in our T-shirt latest contest and you could win $500.