Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Happy Valentine's Day!

Happy Valentine's Day to all!

This, like Christmas, and like other holidays, is something that can be very cheerful and uplifting, or can be very demoralizing and depressing.

On a personal note, that was the way that I felt last Valentine's Day, as well as the Christmas just before that. But I am in a great relationship right now. Stable and comfortable, which is all that I could have asked for, and am very appreciative of. I thank Basia for that, and count my blessings on this day this year!

There is little that I can say to anyone who is going through a depressing time right now, and for whom this holiday perhaps means little to nothing at all. Or worse, is a reminder of someone you really wanted to be with, but which cannot be. Perhaps it is even a source of relative agony, a reminder of what you don't have. Nothing is more depressing when you are single and looking than the sight of happy couples. Seeing them holding hands, smiling at one another, enjoying themselves, and the sounds of their pleasant conversations can be more than a little irritating. It can be downright painful, as if you are receiving a personal slight. 

I know, because I have been there. Numerous times, actually. I also know what it is like to "be" with someone on that day, and want to be with someone else, which is a unique kind of torture in and of itself. Nothing is actually lonelier than not being alone, yet not being with the right party, and feeling more alone because of it. That will probably only make sense to someone who has been through it themselves.

There have been numerous Valentine's Days when I felt alone, and longed to be with somebody special. Just wanting someone to share it with, to take out to dinner, to hug and hold. To know you are enjoying one another's company, and to feel like you are in this together. If I sound appreciative for being with someone this year, it is mostly as a result of knowing all too well that painful longing of wanting that, while it seems that almost everyone else has that. That is what makes this holiday (and Christmas as well) particularly depressing when you are in an unhappy state - that illusion (and an illusion is what it is) that happiness is everywhere, for everyone else. Everyone but you.

We probably all know, deep down, that this is not the reality, only perception caused by circumstance. But this is not the time to write a dissertation on that subject, although it probably could be done. 

So, on this day, it seems that there really is one topic that I should be discussing, and it's not a music review, book review, some piece on recent news, or sports article. No, today, it is about Valentine's Day, and relationships. Romance. 

As you read this now, I do wish you a Happy Valentine's Day, whatever your plans may be. This is a time to appreciate that special somebody in your life. Relationships are about validation, friendship, love, attraction, doing those little things to remind someone else that they are on your mind. Love brings out the best in people. It allows you to separate yourself from yourself a bit, and recognize, truly in a very real way, the importance of putting someone else in front of yourself. Basia has helped me to do that already, and I have been in some other relationships where the woman helped me to do this, as well. For each of them, I am appreciative, even in recognizing that there was hurt. In some cases, I was hurt. in some cases, I did the hurting. But we all strive to improve in life, with time and advancing age, and we learn as we go along. Relationships help accelerate the learning process. I truly believe that! To repeat, it helps to keep us in check, to recognize the validity of another, and to place their interests in front of our own. That is what past relationships (and, in the case of Basia, my current relationship) can teach us. There have been improvements in my case, but I still always could learn that lesson better. Can't we all? 

That's what love is for, I think. 

And that's a cause for celebration, if ever there was one!

Anyway, being a history major, it seemed very important to try and write a story, or rather the story, about Valentine's Day last year (when I did not have someone to share it with). There was some research done, and I remember writing this piece (can it really have been a year already?). It seemed like something that would be difficult to top this year, so why even try? It was an interesting piece of history last year (I thought so, at least), and so it seems a good idea to share it once again. 


The following was first published a year ago, on Valentine's Day, 2012:

File:Antique Valentine 1909 01.jpg
An antique Valentine (1909)
Photo by: Wikepedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Antique_Valentine_1909_01.jpg)

File:St-valentine 110921-01.jpg
Shrine for St. Valentine at Whitefriar Street Carmelite Church in Dublin, Ireland
Photo by: Wikepedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:St-valentine_110921-01.jpg)

"A History of Love? Some Stories About Valentine's Day"

Happy Valentine's Day! Hopefully, you will be able to enjoy this day with someone special, someone who can help keep you warm on a chilly February night midway through the winter season. 

Valentine's Day has come to be a special day for many reasons and by many people. Many people, including those in the business of flowers, chocolates, fancy restaurants, and cards, await this year for a very long time, to say nothing of eager young couples. But did you ever wonder why it was that we hold this day as so special, and signifying the romance that it is supposed to represent?
The origins of what we now call Valentine's Day has it's roots all the way back during the days of the Roman Empire, although there is still some debate as to the accuracy of this tale. There is a popularly held myth regarding it, however, and we can see the modern day origins of what we presently know now as "Valentine's Day".
There was a festival held every February called the Lupercian Festival, which would later be outlawed as a pagan ritual. It was in honor of the God of Fertility and, fittingly enough, the idea behind this festival was for young men to pick women to have as wives, with the idea towards building a family somewhere down the line. Pope Gelasius eventually outlawed this festival, dismissing it as a pagan ritual. 
Before that happened, however, a war-minded Roman Emperor, Claudius, decided to change all of that, because he feared that young men would not be so willing to go off to war if they had wives that could provide warmth and comfort. So, he put a stop to that by abolishing marriages. So, where's the romance in all of that?
Well, it is called Saint Valentine's day for a reason. After all, Claudius might officially be able to abolish marriage, but he could not abolish love. Young men and women still feel for each other, and they would try and find ways to tie the knot. One man was willing to help: Bishop Valentine. He disliked this law, and secretly married couples of his own accord, at great risk to himself. 
Of course, the story does not end there. Claudius found out, and then Valentine was, predictably, thrown in jail. Yet, even this was not enough to end this story of love. We celebrate Valentine to this day, because his spirit was stronger than that force which tried to break him. His spirit was that of love, of course.
While waiting in jail, he fell in love himself, with the blind daughter of his jailer, Austerius, no less. Allegedly, Valentine healed this young woman of her blindness. This itself would sound incredible enough, yet this legend was further embellished by an American card company, that claimed that he wrote her a letter, and his own trademark was his distinctive sign off, "From your Valentine".
Again, though, the accuracy of this legend is questionable. It sounds great, but how accurate can it be, right? It just sounds like a movie, but not something that really happened. Still, the legend has stuck, although, in fact, there is debate as to who this Valentine was, and if he, indeed, was really only one person. Almost assuredly, the popular legend that has been passed through the ages is riddled with inaccuracies, but it does make for a nice story to tell your significant other on this of all days.
There is more, however. The first known association with Valentine's Day to love came centuries ago in England with a poem by Chaucer, in honor of a Royal Wedding of the time. He wrote:
"For this was on seynt Volantynys day
Whan euery bryd comyth there to chese his make"
This was evidently the root of the label "love birds". There is controversy, however, as to what date Chaucer was actually referring to, since there are not many birds in England during mid-February. Yet, at the time, February 14th was believed in both France and England to be the beginning of the mating season for birds, and these words of Chaucer's got the ball rolling, and Valentine's Day became associated with romance and love, more and more steadily. Even Shakespeare added to this association.
Consequently, the oldest known Valentine was written by Charles (my namesake!), the Duke of Orleans, who wrote one to his wife while he was imprisoned in the Tower of London, after he was captured following the Battle of Agincourt in 1415. He wrote:
"Je suis desja d'amour tanné
Ma tres doulce Valentinée..."
Anyone who knows me knows I just wanted to whip out my French for this day, right?
Valentine's Day is known for poetry, and it was not just Chaucer and Shakespeare that got wrapped up in that. Many people have tried to write their sweethearts some love letter or poem and, famously, one of the most commonly used opening lines in the English language begins with "Roses are red, violets are blue". Now, this has a clear origin, as well, and it too is associated with Valentine's Day. It was written by Edmund Spencer, who wrote in his poem, "The Faerie Queene" some lines that would have more spin offs than almost any other lines in the language:
"She bath'd with roses red, and violets blew
And all the sweetest flowres, that in the forrest grew"
So, what about another iconic figure of love, and particularly prominent on Valentine's Day, Cupid? In ancient Rome mythology, Cupid (which is literally translated to "desire" in Latin) was the God of love, affection, and erotic desire. His popular portrayal is as a baby with arrows that he shoots at people, making them fall in love. Roman legend has it that he himself was a victim to his own arrows, when he snuck into Psyche's room and, while there, accidentally knicked himself with his own arrow, and feel madly in love with her.
Of course, I am a big advocate of people doing their own research, exploring things of their own accord, if they have a strong enough interest. So, if you have such an interest in this "history of love", here are few websites, not including the obvious Wikepedia page, that I found helpful in writing this miniature history of the legend behind Valentine's Day:



Bonus! How to wish your sweetheart a "Happy Valentine's Day" in different languages: 

Albanian- Gezuar Diten e Shen Valentinit
Arabic - عيد حب سعيد Eid Hob Sa’eed, habib عيد حب سعيد, حبيبي  (Male)  عيد حب سعيد, حبيبتي Eid Hob Sa’eed, habibti (Female)
Bulgarian - Честит Свети Валентин Chestit Sveti Valentin
Chinese (simplified Mandarin, used in China & Singapore, pronounced Qing Ren Jie Kuai Le) - 情人节快乐
Chinese (traditional Mandarin, used in Taiwan and Hong Kong, also pronounced Qing Ren Jie Kuai Le)情人節快樂
Dutch – Gelukkige Valentijns Dag!
English -Happy Valentine's Day

Finnish - Hyvää Ystävänpäivää (Apparently, it’s not “Valentine’s Day” in Finland, but “Friendship Day”)
French – Heureuse Saint-Valentin! Or Bonne Saint-Valentin!
German – Alles Liebe zum Valentinstag!
Greek - Ευτυχισμενη μερα του Αγιου Βαλεντινου
Hebrew - חג אהבה שמח (chag ahava sameach) or וולנטיין שמח (valentine sameach)
Hindi- Haippy Vailentinsa Divasa 
Hungarian - Boldog Valentin napot!Italian – Buon San Valentino!
Japanese- Shiawasena Barentainde
Korean - 행복한 발렌타인 데이
Persian- Happy Valentine’s Day
Polish - MIŁYCH WALENTYNEK (all capitals on account of the “Ł”)
Russian: Счастливый День святого Валентина! Pronunciation: Schastliviy Den' svetogo
Serbian- Sretan Valentinovo
Slovenian – Veselo Valentinovo!
Spanish – Feliz dia de San Valentin!
Turkish - Mutlu Sevgililer Günü
Thai - Sook-san-wan-valentine!
Turkish - Mutlu Sevgililer Günü
Zulu - Ngiyakuthanda!

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