History set us up for this holiday; remember it well

By Steve Estes

Strictly Drivel

It seems as though I do this every year, but gentlemen, listen closely.

Today is the last day to get your significant other something redeeming for Valentine’s Day or you will have missed it for another year.

It seems as though the holiday that we must never forget rushes up on us faster and faster every year, but really it falls on the same date year after year, we just have to find a way to remember what that date is.

I’ve never really quite figured out why Valentine’s Day is so important, and the history of the holiday is sketchy at best.

Most historians tend to favor the story of St. Valentine, a Catholic priest who lived about 270 AD. He was martyred by the Catholic Church in 496 AD.

As the legend goes, the Roman Emperor Claudius, who led Rome briefly during its long run down to collapse, needed more soldiers with which to defend the empire.

The Roman Empire of that day had grown too large to be successfully defended from external threats and too corrupt to be successfully defended from internal threats, but as with all royal/rich leaders, tossing more military might at anything, as long as they’re not the ones wielding the swords/guns, was the first recourse for leaders.

Claudius felt that married men lost their will to defend the empire and instead fought to defend the family, actually thinking of making it home instead of dying for Mother Rome, so they made bad soldiers.

With that thought process in mind, he forbade young men to marry, and then promptly made them conscripts in the Roman Legions of the day.

Legend has it that St. Valentine would perform surreptitious marriages for young Roman men in defiance of the decree of Claudius. For that Claudius had him jailed and ordered him executed.

During his tenure behind bars, St. Valentine tried to help the young daughter of his jailer, who was blind, and they became fast friends. Hours before his execution, St. Valentine penned a farewell letter to the young lady and signed it “From Your Valentine” forever enshrining the phrase on human history.

Legend says that St. Valentine was executed on February 14, 270.

Thus the date for the holiday. And thus the beginning of the Valentine card.

This legend more or less solidified February 14 as the day of the patron saint of loving relationships and through the years became westernized, as all holidays tend to do, into a day of gifting loved ones with things of emotional value.

As the years passed, the tradition grew stronger, particularly in the Medieval Ages when English and French scholars announced to the world that birds mated on February 14.

By the 18th century, English lovers had begun to give each other hand-made valentines adorned with lace, ribbons and flowers, and the tradition spread to the US colonies along with the Puritans who were the original immigrants. As the Puritanical Christian religions began to consume more of the populace, the tradition grew and soon became a worldwide phenomenon.

Thanks to the influx of free market thinking in the 1840s, and the advent of mass manufacturing technology, commercially produced valentines began to hit the shelves in the local retail shops.

And thus it was in 1841 that the first bedraggled husband skidded his horse to a stop out in front of the local general store minutes before closing time and left a trail of dust through the front door on his way to a search for that elusive valentines card.

He must have been successful. Since that time, husbands and boyfriends around the world have lived with yearly threat of icy shoulders and even bodily harm if they should forget to honor their significant other in some fashion on that day called Valentine’s Day.

And less you get lost in the story guys, remember but one thing from the legend. The date is February 14. That day is today.

So I suggest that retail shop owners get prepared for the annual onslaught of distraught and frightened husbands and boyfriends whipping their conveyances into the first available parking spot after work this evening and combing your shelves for that “perfect” last-minute Valentine card.

We never see the ladies performing these last-minute dashes, and personally I think that’s because even if they forget the day, they can successfully make the argument that the guys are supposed to pay homage to them, not the other way around. After all, what man in his right mind is going to argue over to whom homage should be paid?

And let’s face it guys….we’re easy.

A couple of hours of peace and quiet, a well-cooked hamburger and a cold beer, and every day is a holiday to us.

That doesn’t mean we have to forget the other ones.

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