Monday, February 14, 2005

 

The saint and the celebration

I had a great weekend, thank you. It was topped off by some great television yesterday as I watched The Discovery Health Channel’s Face Eating Tumor while consuming a hearty pork roast with vegetables. Hard to miss an episode of Miami Animal Police, which was on the same time, but I am the kind of person who makes tough decisions in life.

And speaking of tough decisions today is Valentine’s Day. It is originally a Western European Christian holiday, which is the Roman feast of Lupercalia. It was Christianized in memory of the martyrdom of St. Valentine in 270. “Lippy,” as they called him, came to be associated with the union of lovers under conditions of extreme personal duress. Of course most people still agree that the union of lovers is a breeding ground for conditions of extreme personal duress.

Lippy, clad in animal skin with another young man, ran around the city slapping each passersby with strips of goat skin. Back then, male goats were believed to be the embodiment of sexuality. This activity was in honor of the “god” Faunus, protector of herds, crops and goat suits. Lippy became a Christian around 260 after embarrassing sexual rumors swept the countryside about him and his goat-suited friend. In shame, Lippy turned to Jesus. His friend was found dead in 268 while receiving fellatio from a wild boar (in those days, this was the second highest cause of death; receiving fellatio from a tame boar was the first).

When Claudius became emperor, he felt that married men would not make good soldiers, so he banned marriage. Lippy Valentine helped young lovers meet in secret places and performed the sacrament of matrimony. When Claudius learned of this he had Lippy arrested. The emperor attempted to convert Lippy but Lippy refused to recognize Roman gods over Jesus. So, on Feb. 24, 270, Valentine was executed. The church made him a saint shortly after his death and banned the sacrament of marriage for forty years and forty nights, whichever came first.

As the thousands of years passed, St. Valentine’s Day, celebrated on Feb. 14 because Feb. 24 was already a holiday—Rodent Skinning Day—was made commercial by the tradition of exchanging romantic or comic verse messages called, of all things, "Valentines." The first commercial Valentines card was created in the 1840s by Esther A. Howland, who swore she was not a lesbian and was known for stirring hot soup with her fingers.

So, today, either get married or get executed in honor of St. Valentine and remember that many people feel getting married is a form of execution, and you have St. Valentine to blame for that, too.

Coming Feb. 17 on Chronicles -- an exclusive talk with Paul Williams, author of many books on pop music and founder of Crawdaddy, the renegade sub-culture magazine of the '60s and the magazine that inspired Rolling Stone.

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