Valentine’s Day Redux Reduxed

I learned that in truth, no matter how meticulously I sort through my memories, I simply cannot conjure one single fond recollection of Valentine’s Day. Such a cruel celebration. I recall its horrors from all the way back in the first grade when after school I sorted through my little bag of Valentines and didn’t find one from the short, blonde haired girl with jelly jar glasses named Jennifer, to the time I was in the Home Depot and was bewitched by the thought that my girlfriend would really like this cordless drill. Even if one doesn’t have someone to be their Valentine and Valentine’s Day therefore shouldn’t be an issue, Valentine’s Day’s cruelty reaches out and makes the fact that one has no Valentine an issue. Not this year, I have re-written the rules.

You can’t blame the ancient Roman Church for the present-day pathology of Valentine’s Day. They had it right. In the old days, Valentine’s Day was all about persecution, death, martyrdom and marriage; had nothing to do with love and romance, chocolate, flowers or cordless drills. Way back in the 5th century AD, Valentine’s Day was intended to honor this priest, Valentine of Rome. In 269 AD, Saint Valentine was beheaded by the Emperor Claudius Gothicus because he performed marriages for soldiers who weren’t allowed to marry, for abetting Christians fleeing Roman persecution, and, for trying to convert the emperor himself. You can still actually see Saint Valentine’s head … or skull now … it’s on exhibition in the Basilica of Santa Maria in Rome.

Up to this point in history, Valentine’s Day was a perfectly, dreary and gloomy tribute to a martyred saint. It was during the 15th century when the English and the French began to work together to screw it up.

The English poet Geoffrey Chaucer was the first to begin to tweak this already flawless and reasonable celebration when he wrote some stupid poem about birds choosing their mates on Valentine’s Day … never minding that birds don’t choose mates in February. Then Charles VI of France chimed in with the issuance of the Charter of the Court of Love to be celebrated on Feb. 14, further tweaking Valentine’s Day toward romance. But it was William Shakespeare’ who deserves most the blame for the mutation of Valentine’s Day from a somber, morbid commemoration of a martyred saint to the icky, wishy holiday it is today when he wrote in Hamlet, “To-morrow is Saint Valentine’s day, All in the morning betime, And I a maid at your window, To be your Valentine.” Ever since, it’s been chocolate, roses and Hallmark cards. What happened to beheading?

As I thought about this, how a day intended to celebrate one thing can be changed to celebrate another, I wondered … could it be possible … to change the meaning of Valentine’s Day one more time. I have found myself in a unique position to do this. And so I did. You see, Her Royal Highness Princess Wife wasn’t familiar with the holiday because she’s from a place where they don’t celebrate Valentine’s Day. She … didn’t know what it was … until I told her. Insert maniacal laughter here.

I was at my desk when she came in and sat on my lap, put her arms around my neck, laid her head on my shoulder and asked about this Valentine’s Day she was hearing so much of. Such an innocent soul. So I told her. “Habebe, on Valentine’s Day all the wives of the world rise early in the morning to shred potatoes and prepare the traditional breakfast of eggs, oysters, lightly breaded and pan-fried in butter, and home-made hash browns for their husbands.” The concept of particular meals being served on particular holidays seemed plausible to her. And I’m good with that.

She said that sounds like fun and asked what happens next. I told her. “Habebe, on Valentine’s Day it is tradition that after breakfast, a wife sends her husband back to bed to take a post-breakfast nap so that she may secretly stay in the kitchen and bake chocolate chip cookies for her husband.” And … she was good with that.

“Is there yet more to this Valentine’s Day?” she asked.

“Why yes, Habebe, There certainly is … much more. When the chocolate chip cookies have cooled, she wakes her husband and the two of them very romantically sit at the kitchen table and enjoy cookies and milk together while her husband opens his presents.”

She asked, “Is there any such corresponding holiday in which a husband cooks breakfast for his wife and gives her presents?”

“Why of course, Habebe! It comes 15 days after Valentine’s Day on every Feb. 29. It’s called Galentine’s Day. And Habebe, I truly look forward to the day Galentine’s Day rolls around. Such fun”

Call me evil … but not just yet.

If somehow … someway … I can keep her from fact checking me, if I can, for the next three days keep her away from Uncle Google, isolate her from any American born woman or any English and/or Urdu speaking human for that matter … then there is a chance … just a chance … that in three days, on Feb. 14, 2018, a new, faster, stronger, better version of Valentine’s Day will become a reality that will propagate and reverberate throughout our future history. No more childhood rejection or cordless drills thrown at my head. No more chocolates when she really wanted roses. No more Applebee’s when she really wanted to be cooked for at home. No more looking so desperate and hopeless as you hand her chocolates, roses, a lasagna, a gift certificate to Applebee’s and a Hallmark card with some cash enclosed in a pitiful attempt to get it right.

If Chaucer and Shakespeare could with a word, for the next 600 years, change a day of celebration of a brave, beheaded priest into a day of romantic blackmail … perhaps I can change it with another word into … something else. This is all I have learned today.


James Wares lives in Marshalltown and can be reached at