St. Valentine’s Day, or the Feast Day of St. Valentine, is traditionally a spring celebration. According to folk wisdom, it is the day on which birds select their mates for the upcoming mating season, and it’s time for humans to pick mates as well. It rarely seems springlike on February 14th in North America, but these traditions were set in place in Western Europe, which is generally warmer than here, with climatic seasons that begin as much as a month earlier.
Many saints’ feast days are placed on days which were previously pagan celebrations. It made it easier to convince folks to accept the new order, besides the fact that there are so many saints from the old days. Not so many these days, because back then, when there was no news coverage and people were generally more superstitious, it was much easier to ‘prove’ miracles. There are two basic stories about martyred priests named Valentine, but most scholars agree that they are just differing accounts of the same personage, especially since elements of the stories—including the miraculous healing of a child—are similar.
I dislike Valentine’s Day. I am not a curmudgeon, nor am I often accused of lacking romance in my soul. Call it the old hippie in me, but I don’t respond well to a designated day for romance, especially when it’s so commercial. The same little bouquet of flowers that cost $6 a week ago is priced at $16.99 on the holiday. I have seen the price of a dozen roses quadruple in the week days leading up to Valentine’s Day. Going to dinner anywhere nice is a trial of waiting and fighting to get served. It’s also a day of deep depression for some people who feel the absence of significant others, with suicides spiking. One time someone left a note in the women’s bathroom of the library where I work, stating, ‘I will leave a bomb in the library on Valentine’s Day.’ We had the local police patrol us all day that day, and nothing really happened, but somehow I understand the sentiment.
It is springlike here this morning, the day after Valentine’s Day. Temperatures were in the 50s (F) when I got up to run, or actually to walk, with short bursts of running here and there. I am finally getting over a nearly month-long bout of influenza, and trying to get back to regular exercise. It was a quiet, windless morning, with the lingering scent of yesterday’s rain showers. Weather apps say it will rain more today, which would be welcome, but I find that weather predictions are increasingly inaccurate. Looking out the window is advised.
I am sitting here now in the still morning, with Ravel on the radio and the windows open. I want only to gather my true love unto me, go for a stroll in the park, and picnic in the grass. This afternoon’s temperatures are expected to climb into the 70s. But I have to leave for work soon, so there will be neither gathering, strolling, nor picnicking. I’d say it will all have to wait until Saturday, but I see that a drop in temperature is predicted by then, down to the 30s, with a good chance of snow. So much for the emergence of spring.
Most of our holidays are seasonal holidays imported from Europe, even the nominally religious ones, like Christmas in winter and Easter in spring. Valentine’s Day is a less successful import, because it too is meant to be a spring holiday, but occurs too early in North America. It may have some interesting precursors in European history, springtime, romance, all of that. Here in America, it’s just an over-hyped, overpriced day of artificial romance in the midst of the lingering winter. Many old European traditions made a successful crossing to North America. I think this is one that did not.