History Detective Does It Again - Nobel Committee Takes Note
Though the true origin of Valentine’s Day has long been clouded by indifference, recent revelations in my mind have provided uncharacteristic lucidity, shocking my doctors and putting the question to rest once and for all
In Third Century Rome, Emperor Claudius II decided single men made better soldiers than those with wives and families, outlawing marriage for young men and ensuring a steady supply of edgy, short-fused fighters for the Roman army. This severely limited the prospects for young women, upsetting them to no end, while simultaneously causing the emperor’s approval rating to skyrocket in the ‘males, age 35-to-50’ bunch.
A priest named Valentine, comprehending the injustice of such a decree, began to wed young couples in secrecy. These weddings took place in a fictional cave near the foot of Mt. Aelop (giving rise to the modern-day word ‘elope’ which translates to mean ‘right under the emperor’s big fat nose’).
Valentine’s insolence was soon made known to the emperor, prompting Claudius to call for the priest’s execution.
Valentine, understandably disconcerted by this edict, prepared to flee to the United States; which, unfortunately for him, hadn’t been invented yet. In fact, it would be several centuries before the world would take on its present globular form, and North America would cease drifting about, finally declaring itself an independent continent.
Escaping instead to France, Valentine immediately recognized the French an insufferable people and, without unpacking his bags, made for England. Upon arriving in London, Valentine set up shop as a monger of flowers, confections and pickled beets; goods that were largely spurned by the locals as frivolous extravagance.
To make ends meet, Valentine hunted wild game, having the good fortune one day of taking a goat. This ultimately proved a misfortune when it was learned that Valentine’s arrow had found one of the king’s goats—a goat, not surprisingly, indistinguishable from any other goat.
Valentine was arrested forthwith.
At trial, Valentine’s defense centered ‘round the unlikely story that a cherubic, midget had committed the crime, flying away before All the King’s Men arrived to pronounce the unfortunate goat’s demise. (It seems All the King’s Men had been occupied in processing the scene of a suspicious accident involving an egg, which may or may not have been pushed from a wall). Valentine was about to add that the midget was riding a unicorn, but could see the gullible King’s Court had already fallen for his ruse—something he could never have put over on the far more cynical French.
The king ordered Valentine’s release (forthwith) and called for an immediate round-up of all chubby midget archers… a disturbingly common demographic in those days.
Meanwhile, back in Rome, Pope Gelasius I (creator of the popular Italian treat, Gelato), for no reason whatsoever, issued a decree that established Valentine’s Day as an official holiday; the holiday originally being celebrated (at the clever suggestion of Valentine, himself) with gifts of flowers, confections and pickled beets.
And that’s the truth about the origin of Valentine’s Day.