February 14th. The day when lovers renew their affection for one another and the rest of us drown ourselves in ice cream, chocolate, and Nicholas Sparks movies.
Valentine’s Day. Historians believe its origins belong in ancient Rome. Between February 13 and 15 the Romans celebrated the fertility feast of Lupercalia, in honor of the pastoral god Lupercus. Naked men would sacrifice an animal, typically a goat or dog, then whip naked women with the hides or entrails of the slain animals. Whew, forget Russell Stover, give me a good flogging with a bloody Bovidae anyday.
Later, in the 3rd century, a priest by the name of Valentine, was imprisioned, and slated for execution, for performaing marriages agaist the wishes of the Emperor Claudius II. The legend states that Valentine, while imprisioned, sent a note to a woman from her intended, professing his love. Valentine was, in affect, the middleman, much like our modern-day cupid (although without the arrow and diaper). Can you guess on which date the execution took place?
Later, during the 5th century, while trying to rid the countryside of pagan rituals, Pope Gelasius I combined the celebration of St. Valentine’s Day with Lupercalia. So, the Christians skipped the bloody beatings, but still got to celebrate the day with lustful gusto.
As the years went on, Valentine’s Day became more about love than fornication, although I seem to remember it still having a strong play in the day’s celebrations (sigh). Chaucer and Shakespeare romanticized the day, and the celebration of the love fest soon spread throughout Britain and the rest of Europe. The Middle Ages saw the development of handmade cards and the custom spread to the New World which, ultimately, brought about the birth of Hallmark.
For you visual learners, here’s a nifty graphic created by History.com.
Here on the Concord River, we celebrate Valentine’s Day in a more subdued manner. No bloody duck beatings and we keep our clothes, and feathers, on our bodies. So, how do we celebrate this day of love? Well, I eat my weight in chocolate while the chickadees, titmice, and mourning doves sing their mating calls. These hardy Northern birds don’t seem to mind the frigid temps. They’re intent on finding mates, even as the snow falls.
During all this eating and singing, the ducks have paired-up. Each lucky drake has been chosen by a plump hen to be her beau.
The drakes keep tabs on their hens, especially when a lone drake is on the prowl.
There is a belief that most waterfowl mate for life. In fact, Guy de Maupassant, wrote about this very topic in a bittersweet short story entitled: Love: Three Pages from a Sportman’s Book.
“The sun had risen, and it was a bright day with a blue sky, and we were thinking of taking our departure, when two birds with extended necks and outstretched wings, glided rapidly over our heads. I fired, and one of them fell almost at my feet. It was a teal, with a silver breast, and then, in the blue space above me, I heard a voice, the voice of a bird. It was a short, repeated, heart-rending lament; and the bird, the little animal that had been spared began to turn round in the blue sky, over our heads, looking at its dead companion which I was holding in my hand.”
I won’t spoil the ending, but if you want a good cry, or at least a little weeping, skip The Notebook and read this story. And, if you know any naked Romans, send them my way.
Blessed be ♥