The true history of Valentine's Day is shrouded in mystery, as there were several saints named Valentine, various pagan festivals were merged with the celebration and numerous embellishments and legends have been added over the centuries. It seems that the only things we can be sure of are: Valentine killed him a bar when he was only three, could not resort to falsehood after chopping down a cherry tree, pointed to the center field bleachers as the destination of his home run, put in an appearance on the grassy knoll and left his hook in the car door before dying from ingesting Pop Rocks and Coke.
Valentine's Day was originally associated with Christian sacrificial love and didn't become associated with romantic love until the High Middle Ages. The transition from martyr celebration to courtly love was painfully awkward. ("Didst thou hear about Saint Bubba getting beheaded, disemboweled and then burned at the stake? Oh, here -- have a Whitman sampler.")
True, some individuals tried injecting romance into the holiday sooner; but various Roman emperors saw to it that things didn't go according to plan. ("Someone said there would be cougars here, so I splashed on my favorite aftershave lotion and--Whoa! Lions instead of cougars??? Heeeeellllppp!")
Despite being the son of love goddess Venus, Cupid was not part of the Valentine's Day mythos until the 18th century. Cupid may have to step aside again, as his arrows are too militaristic and too reminiscent of Greco-Roman empire building. Fear not. From now on, Jimmy Carter will come in and NEGOTIATE "love at first sight" for you.
Every year the city of Verona, Italy, receives more than 1,000 letters addressed to Juliet (of Shakespeare fame). Okay, so she's a fictional character, she had a boyfriend, and she has been dead for 400 years. Sounds like Verona needs to institute some stronger STALKING laws.
In the U.S., it's estimated that 64 percent of the men do not make plans in advance for Valentine's Day. That concept is totally alien to some of the men in terrorist-rich countries. ("B-but...if they wait until the last minute, they have to buy picked-over explosives and shrapnel...")
About three percent of pet owners will give Valentine gifts to their pets. I'm not so sure doggies are keen on the idea of a romantic holiday after their little socially responsible visit to the vet's office. And do canines really understand some of the paraphernalia of the holiday? ("What's up with edible underwear???? Who has edible underwear except mailmen?")
Fifteen percent of American women send themselves flowers on Valentine's Day. That's not as pathetic as it sounds. Unless they also start to send themselves alimony checks, restraining orders and pleas of "I don't know what made me do that, baby! I swear I'll never do it again."
Teachers will receive the most Valentine's Day cards, followed by children, mothers, wives, and then sweethearts. Conspicuously absent are congressmen, who think it's better to give than receive. ("Send a dozen red roses to The Sound Of My Own Voice.")
According to candy maker NECCO, eight billion "conversation hearts" are sold between January 1 and February 14. They try to stay contemporary with their romantic sayings, with "You're sweet" and "Be my Valentine" joined by such paeans to pure love as "Oh, crud! I'm due on the set of 'Two And A Half Men'! Keep the change!"
©2011 Danny Tyree. Danny welcomes reader e-mail responses at firstname.lastname@example.org. Danny's' weekly column is distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons Inc. newspaper syndicate.