The Light Side: The Big V

by Tom Watson – 

Valentine’s Day is upon us, yet again – the one day a year when the pressure to deliver is astronomical. How did it come about, and why am I a schmuck if I’m not standing in line at a local gift boutique, then florist and finally chocolate shop, in order to deliver a bounty to signify my love? Actually, I’m pretty lucky and expectations of that kind have never been enforced … or she just gave up hope long ago.

Back in the Third Century AD, from February 13 to 15, the Romans celebrated the feast of Lupercalia. Whilst drunk and naked, the men sacrificed a goat and a dog, then whipped the equally drunk and naked women with the hides of the animals they had just slain. Although this practice would raise eyebrows today, back in the days when the world was still very flat, young women would actually line up for the treatment as they believed it would make them fertile.

By the time the Fifth Century hit, Pope Gelasius I and the Christians had tempered things a little: they put the kibosh on the sacrifices (pleasing goats and dogs to no end) and insisted everyone was clothed. It wasn’t until the 14th Century when Geoffrey Chaucer is
credited (blamed) for turning this feasting holiday into the expression of romantic love and traditional “courting” more akin to what we have today.

You have to hand it to the marketing wizards at Hallmark: they took a semi-harmless practice of sending a loved one a romantic note and turned it into a global pressure-cooker of expectations. In 2016, over 145 million Valentine cards were exchanged and in the most recent sales meeting, you have to believe the boss wanted to surpass that target. Over the last few decades, Valentine’s Day has been massaged and manipulated to make sure everyone was included, not just those who happen to be romantically involved. Kids at school exchange little cards; parents get a card; siblings, best friends and even pets get a card!

Don’t get me wrong: I like cards, in fact, I love cards! I have actually spent quality time nestled in between the racks of quality cards at local stores and burst out laughing at some of the stock they carry. Humourous cards by “Tim Whyatt” are my favourite. If you’re not familiar with his work, stop by and ask Kristin at Cameron Rose to show you her secret stash; you’ll be glad you did.

So, now that the whole “drunk and naked” thing could annoy the neighbours, sacrificing a goat or a nearby dog is frowned upon and beating your loved one with a pelt is totally out of fashion, sending a card doesn’t seem like too bad an idea.

So start 2017 off right (it’s not too late to fire out a few Happy New Year cards), arm yourself with some Valentines and send them to your bosses, co-workers (vetted through HR first), teachers, siblings, friends and maybe even one to Fido, even though he already loves you and will really just be thrilled with your attention.

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