Monday, February 14, 2011

Aaack! St. Valentine is a Fake!

I thought today would be great day to do a blog about St. Valentine. You know, my usual sarcastic stuff, maybe make a joke about how God wants you to be in love but not be lovers.

But to my dismay, I discovered that St. Valentine is a fake! He never existed!

Or more specifically, there were actually something like fourteen martyred saints in ancient Rome named Valentinus, which means worthy, strong or powerful (from valens). It was just a popular name, nothing more.

What's more, we know almost nothing about any of them. We don't know why the Romans executed them. We don't even know which one is supposed to be "the" St. Valentine! What's a lover to do?

(Fourteen Valentines instead of one reminds me of that old philosopher's joke: "Shakespeare didn't write all those plays. It was someone else with the same name!")

The whole Valentine-for-lovers thing was apparently concocted by Chaucer (the same guy who did The Canterbury Tales) in the fourteenth century, which is when St. Valentine became associated with romantic love. Nobody knows what the heck Chaucer was thinking. Why would some guy living in the 1300s spontaneously create romantic stories and a whole fake biography about an ancient Roman martyr whose origins, life history and deeds were completely lost?

But all cynicism aside, this is one religious tradition I really like. A special day for love and lovers! Who could object to that? Certainly not me.

Happy Valentines Day to my beautiful wife!


  1. It may have been Chaucer that came up with St. Valentine, however it was the corporations that exploited it. The wife and I would rather pick random days to celebrate our love than get bilked by the corporations to buy trinkets and baubles on an arbitrary day in February.

    Like you said, I can get into the traditions, but why not celebrate it any and everyday?

  2. You know, the word "Fake" doesn’t apply here. For one thing, there seems to have been a specific Saint Valentine who was martyred, or laid to rest, on February 14th. While others also bore the name, and were perhaps simultaneously commemorated, it seems Saint Valentine as we know of him by name was still a real man.

    As for Chaucer, he wrote novels , plays, and shot stories. Creating things like this is par for the course.

  3. My wife and I married on February 21st. We didn't think of it that way at the time, but it's a great way to celebrate our love in February without being required to buy into overpriced cards, flowers, and chocolates. I think the day is cute and it's fun for "new" couples, and anyone who wants to celebrate it should certainly enjoy it, but for me it rings hollow. Part of that is how it is ostensibly for "love and lovers", as you've put it, but it's largely about a man throwing cash at his woman.


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