Me, Myself, and the Voices in My Head

A place to ramble and maybe make some sense about a thing or two.

Archive for the category “Holiday”

2012 in review

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.  True, I’ve not blogged in ages.  So much for my goal….but the ADD kicked-in and I got bored.  However, it’s still open and I can blog when I want to now!  Yay for loopholes!!!

Here’s an excerpt:

600 people reached the top of Mt. Everest in 2012. This blog got about 7,600 views in 2012. If every person who reached the top of Mt. Everest viewed this blog, it would have taken 13 years to get that many views.

Click here to see the complete report.


Memorial Day — You’re doing it wrong!

On this Memorial Day, we sit out on our decks and party.  Three days we’ve got off from work with burgers on the barbie.  But if you take a moment to reflect, away from your party scene, the radio will remind you what this day truly means.

It’s time to save, I said SAVE, on a waterbed!  It’s time to buy a great mattress at an even greater price!  I’ve got two words for you — It’s “Tire Sale!”  We’ve got rock-bottom prices and the time is running out!

You’ve got one full year, that’s right — one full year!  No interest!  No payments!  This could be the Memorial Day Weekend you enjoy for years!

Oh, yeah, and something about guys who died for our country…..  (“Memorial Day” parody by Heywood Banks)

Sadly, that song which was written as a joke to show just how out-of-touch we are with what Memorial Day really means is truer than you think.

I’ve seen and heard lots of people talking about their holiday weekend.  The “fact” that it’s the first weekend of summer.  About how much they’ve enjoyed their mini-family vacations and days spent on the lake or fishing or perfecting their barbeque techniques.  I’ve also seen a lot of people posting photos/cartoons and statements thanking veterans for their service.

Memorial Day is not the day we say “thank you” to our veterans.  EVERY DAY should be a day we say “thank you” to our veterans.  But for those who can’t be bothered to do that every day you see someone in uniform or someone wearing a hat or jacket showing they were one who promised to put their life on the line for our country, then at least say “thank you” on Veterans’ Day (11 November).

Memorial Day is when we should stop what we’re doing and remember that it’s the day set aside to say “thank you” to those veterans we CAN’T thank in person anymore.  They gave the ultimate sacrifice on the battlefields, wherever they were.  And we remember those veterans who have passed-on and the service they so proudly gave to our country.

Memorial Day was originally called Decoration Day and was started by Major General John A. Logan from Southern Illinois and the GAR, the Grand Army of the Republic.  The GAR was an organization of Union veterans.  Three years after the Civil War, in 1868, he said that on May 30th all the graves of our war dead should be decorated with flowers (which would be in bloom across the country at that time).  In his orders, he stated:

We should guard their graves with sacred vigilance. … Let pleasant paths invite the coming and going of reverent visitors and fond mourners.  Let no neglect, no ravages of time, testify to the present or to the coming generations that we have forgotten as a people the cost of a free and undivided republic.

This was done because in many areas immediately following the Civil War, only those of either Union or Confederate forces were being remembered and the graves of the “enemy” were falling into neglect.  One of the first records of equal decorations came in 1866 when women visiting the sites of the Confederate dead from the Battle of Shiloh near Columbus, Mississippi, noticed the graves of Union casualties being ignored and desecrated because they were they “enemy.”  Disturbed at the sight of the bare graves, the ladies placed flowers there as well.

Many Union or Confederate Decoration Day ceremonies are still held every year.  Memorial Day, however, was made a Federal holiday by an act of Congress in 1971 and the last Monday in May was selected as the date in order to be fairly consistent with the orders given by Maj. Gen. Logan as well as coinciding with the local/regional celebrations that had been occurring since.

Every grave in every national cemetery will have an American flag placed upon it today.  Some are placed by soldiers, some by civic groups such as the Boy and Girl Scouts.  Many family members will also decorate the graves of their loved ones in national, state, and private cemeteries.  Speeches will be made and politicians will “pay tribute” across the country today.  But it shouldn’t be just them making an effort.  And it shouldn’t be just the veterans who were able to come home to their country and families and who live with the memories of how their comrades gave the ultimate sacrifice.  It should be all of us — every single person who enjoys the freedom for which those brave men and women laid-down their lives.

It’s not about the sales; it’s not about the picnics; it’s not about a day off with or without pay.  It’s about gratitude; it’s about honor; it’s about those we can never say “thank you” personally to again.

Towel and Star Wars Day — Celebrate both!

No new news on the job front.  My Cadre Manager was supposed to get back in touch with my ERO counselor but that didn’t happen.  I have been given lots of really good advice and had friends recommend a lot of options.  I’m keeping everything open at the moment.  I’ll continue fighting for what’s best for my family and me.

So, since there’s really nothing new, I’ll just wish everyone a Happy Towel Day and Happy Star Wars Day.  Towel Day is for fans of Douglas Adams and his “Hitchhikers’ Guide to the Galaxy Trilogy” (all six books) and in memory of his death on this date in 2001.  Star Wars Day marks the anniversary of the premiere of Star Wars: Episode IV, A New Hope in 1977.  35 years ago….wow, I feel old.

I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve read Douglas’ books (not just the H2G2 series) as well as listened to the radio shows, audiobooks, and watched the movies.  Douglas Adams also worked on episodes of Doctor Who and Monty Python’s Flying Circus.  You can tell I’m a big fan, huh?

I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve seen the original trilogy of Star Wars.  I even have the theatrical releases on DVD because I can’t stand watching all of the added on stuff from 1997.  I remember seeing the movies in the theater, when that was the only option, and then recording them off HBO onto our Betamax player (yes, I really am that old) and watching them every day after school.

Hey, when your dad is the principal of your school, you don’t hang out with a lot of people, and you’re focused on keeping your grades high you find yourself as one of the biggest geeks doing what geeks do best — reciting movie lines.  After I’d seen each of the original three over 500 times each, I quit counting.  I still have no idea how many times I’ve seen them all.  In college I could win bets by having people play a part of the soundtrack and begin to act and recite the exact scene just based on the music!  Okay, it was only good for winning bar bets and has never helped me in any sort of career, but it was fun all the same!

So all you hoopy froods, get your towels and grab a bottle of Old Janx Spirit (from H2G2 or SW, your choice) and head out to Millyways!

Let us think the unthinkable, let us do the undoable, let us prepare to grapple with the ineffable itself, and see if we may not eff it after all. — Douglas Adams

Day for Mothers brings voices back

I hate holidays.  Scratch that.  The only holiday I don’t really despise is Halloween.  All other holidays are over-commercialized.  You know that you’re going to spend money on costumes, candy, and makeup for Halloween but why does everyone try to guilt us into buying more crap that no one needs just because it’s a holiday?

Today is Mothers’ Day and it’s allowed us (the voices) to move forward and take over the post ’cause even though I have kids, Mothers’ Day has always been somewhat annoying.  Eldest Son sent a brief text message (just “Happy Mothers’ Day).  No call or even an email after months of no contact.  Youngest Son and Husband though did do a good job at making me feel better though.  They allowed me to sleep-in and then made lunch and bought roses for me.  Very, very appreciated it was and no overspending.  If they’re going to overspend I’d prefer that they overspend time with me during the day.  It’s better than anything they could drag home from a store.

Did call Biological Mother today.  Wished her a happy Mothers’ Day and received the same in return.  Always thought it was strange when she’d wish me a happy Mothers’ Day because I’m a mother but I’m not her mother.  I think that’s just a OCD thing.  Husband called his mother to wish her the same today.  I have no idea what she had to say because he’s the only one who talked to her.  She sent me a Mothers’ Day card (again, seems silly but that’s just me) and a note inside which thanked me for sending articles to her that I didn’t send and asking me how I spell my name (by the way, Husband and I have been married almost 17 years now).  And when I’m feeling the way I am today (and the voices are more likely to keep redirecting my concentration), it’s best I don’t talk to too many people.

Happy Birthday Husband!!!

I’m using this post on my blog to wish a very, very happy birthday to Husband.  He’s 15 years older than me though at times you’d never know it.  I think that’s one of the things that makes us great together.  We’re matched both intellectually and psychologically very well (I’ll let you guess which one represents whom).

Last year I bought him a rifle.  This year I got him a 2-year subscription to a magazine he likes (not adult-only).  I told him I felt bad at the difference between the two gifts but that I also blamed him for it because he wouldn’t give me any suggestions of what he wanted.  He and I both agree that we’re getting to the point where we have what we need and just buying something because we want it isn’t practical.  Youngest Son didn’t know what to give him either so he dedicated his last band concert of the year to him.

So, here’s to another year of good health and happiness to Husband!!!  I love you very, very, very, (continue repeating very ad infinitum) much!!!

Mediocre Friday

Another short post this week.  If you’re a Christian, today is Good Friday.  If you’re Jewish, this is the first day of Passover.  There may be other religions that have something special on this day but since they’re not part of “The Big Three” (Judaism, Christianity, Islam) they don’t make it onto the mass-marketed calendars.

I’m not celebrating anything.  Over my many years I’ve fluctuated from being borderline evangelical and wanting to start my own “crusades” to highly agnostic and informing others that even though I believe in a god (or God or G-d, depending on your preference), it’s got way too many other things to deal with at the moment instead of my petty issues.  And I don’t prescribe a “He” or “She” to the spiritual being represented because there’s no way for anyone to know absolutely, positively for sure.  I’m pretty sure he/she/it is too busy for a chromosomal scan for Xs and Ys.  I done religious studies in many different areas and have dabbled in pagan practices as well.  Just to confuse others more, when accosted by those demanding to know my religion (mostly so they could tell me how much better theirs was than mine), I used to tell them I was a Reformed Druid.  That always put them back a step or two.  If they asked what was the difference, I replied that Druids pray to trees and Reformed Druids pray to bushes.  It was easy to get them to leave me alone after that.

And before anyone begins to castigate me because of what I’m posting, I’m not saying religion is bad.  I’m not saying that it’s good either.  That’s not for me to decide.  For many it’s what holds their life together.  For others it’s what has torn their entire world apart.  The things done for and in the name of religion or a specific deity over the centuries is just embarrassing.  Religion has a time and a place and after seeing a lot of good and bad examples from several types of them I find that “organized religion” — the type where you’re basically required to attend and mumble things on a specific day of the week towards the sky or an icon or just in some random fashion — is not for me.  In America we have freedom of religion and I’m free to get my spiritual adoration on however I see fit so long as it doesn’t impede others in their search of religious freedom.

So I wish everyone a happy and safe whatever it is you’re celebrating (or not) today.

February 29th – Interesting Facts

Since it’s “Leap Day,” I’m gonna leap out of my chair and not post anything tonight.  I’m tired and I’m going to bed early.  But, just so those of you who read my blog on a regular basis won’t have to go without, I’m reposting this informational article published by BBC News.  I think you’ll like it.

Here are 10 things to consider – for one day only. Until 2016, that is.

1. The leap year’s extra day is necessary because of the “messiness” of our Solar System. One Earth year (a complete orbit around the Sun) does not take an exact number of whole days (one complete spin of the Earth on its axis). In fact, it takes 365.2422 days, give or take.

2. Until Julius Caesar came to power, people observed a 355-day calendar – with an extra 22-day month every two years. But it was a convoluted solution to the problem and feast days began sliding into different seasons. So Caesar ordered his astronomer, Sosigenes, to simplify things. Sosigenes opted for the 365-day year with an extra day every four years to scoop up the extra hours. This is how the 29 February was born. It was then fine-tuned by Pope Gregory XIII (see below).

3. Every fourth year is a leap year, as a rule of thumb. But that’s not the end of the story. A year that is divisible by 100, but not by 400, is not. So 2000 was a leap year, as was 1600. But 1700, 1800 and 1900 are not leap years. “It seems a bit arbitrary,” says Ian Stewart, emeritus professor of mathematics at Warwick University. But there’s a good reason behind it.

“The year is 365 days and a quarter long – but not exactly. If it was exactly, then you could say it was every four years. But it is very slightly less.” The answer arrived at by Pope Gregory XIII and his astronomers when they introduced the Gregorian calendar in 1582, was to lose three leap days every 400 years. The math has hung together ever since. It will need to be rethought in about 10,000 years’ time, Stewart warns. But by then mankind might have come up with a new system.

4. Why is February 29, not February 31, a leap year day? All the other months have 30 or 31 days, but February suffered from the ego of Roman Emperor Caesar Augustus, says Stewart. Under Julius Caesar, February had 30 days, but when Caesar Augustus was emperor he was peeved that his month – August – had only 29 days, whereas the month named after his predecessor Julius – July – had 31. “He pinched a couple of days for August to make it the same as July. And it was poor old February that lost out,” says Prof Stewart.

5. The tradition of a woman proposing on a leap year has been attributed to various historical figures. One, although much disputed, was St Bridget in the 5th Century. She is said to have complained to St Patrick that women had to wait too long for their suitors to propose. St Patrick then supposedly gave women a single day in a leap year to pop the question – the last day of the shortest month. Another popular story is that Queen Margaret of Scotland brought in a law setting fines for men who turned down marriage proposals put by women on a leap year. Sceptics have pointed out that Margaret was five years old at the time and living far away in Norway. The tradition is not thought to have become commonplace until the 19th Century.

It is believed that the right of every woman to propose on this day goes back to the times when the leap year day was not recognised by English law. It was believed that if the day had no legal status, it was acceptable to break with tradition.

6. A prayer has been written by a female cleric for people planning a leap year day marriage proposal. The prayer, for 29 February, asks for blessings on the engaged couple. It reminds them that wedding plans should not overtake preparations for a lifetime together. The prayer has been taken from Pocket Prayers of Blessing by the Venerable Jan McFarlane, Archdeacon of Norwich:

“God of love, please bless N and N as they prepare for the commitment of marriage. May the plans for the wedding not overtake the more important preparation for their lifetime together. Please bless their family and friends as they prepare for this special day and may your blessing be upon them now and always. Amen.”

7. The practice of women proposing in a leap year is different around the world. In Denmark, it is not supposed to be 29 but 24 February, which hails back to the time of Julius Caesar. A refusal to marry by Danish men means they must give the woman 12 pairs of gloves. In Finland, it is not gloves but fabric for a skirt and in Greece, marriage in a leap year is considered unlucky, leading many couples to avoid it.

8. The chance of being born on a leap day is often said to be one in 1,461. Four years is 1,460 days and adding one for the leap year you have 1,461. So, odds of 1/1,461.

But Stewart points out that is very slightly out, owing to the loss of the three leap years every 400 years. In any case, babies are more likely to be born at certain times of the year rather than others, due to a range of other factors, he says. Babies born on 29 February are known as “leapers” or “leaplings”.

9. Other calendars apart from the Gregorian require leap years. The modern Iranian calendar is a solar calendar with eight leap days inserted into a 33-year cycle. The Indian National Calendar and the Revised Bangla Calendar of Bangladesh arrange their leap years so that the leap day is always close to 29 February in the Gregorian calendar.

10. Explorer Christopher Columbus used the lunar eclipse of 29 February 1504 to his advantage during his final trip to the West Indies. After several months of being stranded with his crew on the island of Jamaica, relations with the indigenous population broke down and they refused to continue helping with food and provisions. Columbus, knowing a lunar eclipse was due, consulted his almanac and then gathered the native chiefs on 29 February. He told that God was to punish them by painting the Moon red. During the eclipse, he said that God would withdraw the punishment if they starting co-operating again. The panicked chiefs agreed and the Moon began emerging from its shadow.

Also of a supernatural nature, on 29 February 1692 the first warrants were issued in the Salem witchcraft trials in Massachusetts.

Presidents’ Day Sale: Isn’t that every day?

Once again we have another Federal holiday and the newspapers, radio, and television are filled to the brim with advertisements for Presidents’ Day Sales.  Will we ever have a holiday that doesn’t involve unbridled avarice?  Sure, we’re a capitalist society, but we do we have to change our holidays from times of remembrance and honor to just simply buying the crap out of everything?

Of course, I’m also one of the “old fogeys” who remembers back-in-the-day when we used to celebrate George Washington’s birthday on one date (February 22nd) and Abraham Lincoln’s birthday on another (February 12th).  And if you’re reading this and have no idea who either of those people are, then please, in all seriousness, stop reading my blog because you’re just going to embarrass yourself.  Our school classrooms were always decorated with silhouettes of Washington and Lincoln and the red-white-and-blue bulletin board borders were strung around the room and decorated each desk.  Sometimes there would be contests to see who could dress-up most like either of them and some teachers who only wanted to have to decorate once in the month of February would put the silhouettes of our first and sixteenth presidents (facing each other, usually) inside a large pink heart.  That one always confused me.

After the recognition of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Birthday as a Federal holiday, a lot of states stopped celebrating Lincoln’s birthday because they didn’t want to have to give their employees another paid day-off.  Some states still celebrate it, however, as a state holiday (Illinois being one of the biggest).  But if we had a holiday for every president and event in our country’s history, the government would never be open and all Federal employees would spend most of their time off with pay.  Actually, there are some days it seems like they do that anyway.  Technically, there is no “Presidents’ Day” or “President’s Day” or “Presidents Day” (depending on your interpretation of punctuation rules).  The official designation is Washington’s Birthday and no formal bill has ever changed that.  Some have tried — Nixon issued an executive order to celebrate all presidents (including himself, of course) but that didn’t change the holiday.  A bill was even introduced in 2001 but it never made it out of the subcommittee trying to present it.

So, the sales we’re having are actually to celebrate Washington’s birthday.  But let’s look at the phrasing of what’s printed on most of our calendars because the greeting card industry and all the politically-correct rulesmongers won’t have us ignoring the other 43 presidents we’ve had.  Presidents’ Day.  A day for all of the presidents.

Now let’s add the commercialization part.  Presidents’ Day Sale.  A day to sell presidents?  We have that every day, don’t we?  Look at the current campaigns — it’s a battle for who’s got the most money; who can spend the most in a certain area; and who is going to promise the most going back to the citizens just so long as they donate enough to help them get elected.  No one without a huge “war chest” could even dream of becoming president.  If you don’t already have your own large amount of money that’s doing nothing but waiting to be spent, a PAC, a Super-PAC, or a Super-Sized-PAC-with-fries-and-a-drink, you don’t stand a chance.

Technically, we buy-and-sell our presidents every day.  After one election ends and the inauguration occurs, hopefuls for the next one four years down the road start jockeying for position.  And anyone in politics who says they’re not interested in running is probably lying through their teeth.  But behind the scenes, where the lobbyists and special-interest groups lurk while pretending they’re not involved, the money gathering begins.  If you’ve got the money, we’ve got the candidate for you!

It’s been jokingly suggested that we should make all of our politicians wear uniforms with their “sponsors” logos on them, like the NASCAR drivers do.  There’d be some who’d have to change outfits four-or-more times a day just so every donor would get equal “screen time.”  Watching them trying to give a speech or meet-and-greet with the public would be hysterical as they try to ensure shaking enough hands while holding a sponsoring beverage in the other.  Shoot, the State of the Union address would have everyone sitting and listening to the president while an aide did the old “hat dance” (where the winning driver had to briefly wear a hat from each of the race’s sponsors during the post-race interview) as they sat in the gallery.  I’d almost pay to see that!

The current political climate is already bragging and complaining about money raised and spent and who has how much.  Sure, they say we have “free” elections — but don’t take that too literally.  We’ll pay for it, for good or for bad, one way or another.

Teen drama isn’t just for girls….

I have always been very happy that I have two sons.  Don’t get me wrong, if I’d had a daughter, I’d love her just as much as I do my boys.  But, having been raised basically as a boy (Biological Father always wanted a son and I’m the only child he’s ever had), I’m not sure I’d know what to do with a girl.  I’m not into Barbie and makeup and dresses.  I don’t watch fashion shows or keep up with the latest dreamboat boy bands.  I’m much more comfortable in jeans and a t-shirt than I am a skirt or even capris or shorts.  The only dresses I own are my wedding dress (which no longer fits) and a costume I bought for Halloween one year that’s just too awesome to get rid of.

I remember in school that Valentine’s Day was always a big issue.  You either got a card or candy because everyone else did or you got a flower/balloon/etc. because your boyfriend/girlfriend/parents sent you something.  And the ones who usually got something from their parents were mortified for at least a week.  If you didn’t have a boyfriend/girlfriend, you got nothing and you went on about your day.  If you did get something, you loved hearing your name called over the intercom with the other “blessed” members of your school who would all be mobbed in the office by everyone else who wanted to see which person got the biggest gift.

Or, occasionally, you’d be told you had a gift waiting — perhaps a balloon or candy sold from one of the school’s clubs as a fundraiser — only to find that you did have something but it was “sent” from someone who actually didn’t send you anything.  And when you went to thank them for the nice gesture, they would laugh and make fun of the fact that you’d believe they’d actually take the time to send you something, much less pay for anything.  I fell victim to that a few times.  It didn’t help with Biological Father being my school’s principal from the time I was in 2nd grade until 8th grade.  Then he became an administrator and that was even worse.  I always felt bad when I saw it happen to others because I personally knew what they were going through and usually could figure out who’d been the person to pull the prank (especially since he/she usually couldn’t keep their mouth shut about it).

The same thing happened this year to Youngest Son.  He received a Valentine from one of the school clubs’ fundraisers signed with the name of a boy that he hangs-out with in a group before school.  Youngest Son told me that evening he thought it was creepy and even posted it on Facebook.  I lectured him on how rude that was, especially since the boy was a friend of his through Facebook as well and could read the post.  I told him that if someone had the time and thoughtfulness to remember him on Valentine’s Day that he should just be thankful.

I was so furious at how insensitive he was at having received a card with a Hershey’s Kiss from a male classmate that I went into maximum rant-drive.  I told him that perhaps the boy felt that Youngest Son was a good friend and wanted to show his appreciation.  I told him that maybe the boy had sent them to all of the guys that hang-out together as a friend.  I then explained that maybe he felt that Youngest Son was his only friend and that reading on Facebook that it was “creepy” would be so hurtful that perhaps the boy might become depressed.  I explained that maybe this boy had feelings for Youngest Son and the last thing he needed was to be made fun of by Youngest Son and his “friends” and asked how he would feel if the boy didn’t return to school the next day.  I also asked how he’d feel if the boy who might have been one that was picked-on by many others felt this was the last straw and never came back to school because he’d committed suicide.  I also told him that it could, possibly, just be a prank by someone with nothing better to do with their time to try to embarrass this boy and make Youngest Son the newest accomplice (having experienced that myself).

Youngest Son went online and deleted the post but I reminded him that anyone could have shared it and started spreading rumors.  Even one of his “friends” posted in the comments: “Gee, I didn’t think your door swung that way!”  Whether that “friend” was just trying to be funny (and failed) or really believes that Youngest Son feels that way is irrelevant.  It’s a small town with a lot of closed-minded people who don’t take kindly to people who think and feel differently than the “normal” folk do.  I told him the best thing to do would be to approach the boy the next morning at school and simply say “Thank you for thinking about me” and leave it at that.

Well, after school today, Youngest Son told me what he did.  He went to the boy and said thank you for the card and candy.  The boy said that he had been confused the evening before because he had received a card and candy addressed to him with Youngest Son’s name as the sender.  They both realized together — they were the victims of a poorly thought out prank.  Someone was trying to make them both look “bad” and get rumors started.  Both boys agreed that they weren’t going to fall into the “trap” that was laid for them and that they’d both enjoy the candy they didn’t have to pay for and would still be friends and hang-out in the mornings with the rest of their group.  No hard feelings and just laughter at whomever wasted their time and money on the trick.  They even told their friends what had happened and all of the other guys and girls thought it was funny that they figured out they’d been “pranked” and laughed that someone would be insensitive and silly enough to try it.  The group is still together and Youngest Son is even having a few (guys only, of course) over this weekend for a Star Wars marathon.  I still can’t believe that these are some of the smartest kids in the school and many STILL haven’t seen the original trilogy!!  How can that be??

Anyway, at least Youngest Son learned a valuable lesson.  He needs to think before he posts and be much more sensitive of other people’s feelings.  The world has changed and bullying doesn’t just happen on the schoolyard anymore.  I hope this lesson sticks with him for a long time ’cause I know high school won’t be any easier.

My obligatory Valentine’s Day blog post

February 14th — known ’round the world as “St. Valentine’s Day” or just “Valentine’s Day” if you refuse to put the religious part towards it.  Actually, it’s no longer a “religious holiday” since the Catholic church removed it from the “official calendar” in 1969 (what an odd year to do that).  In fact, it wasn’t really a Catholic celebration first.

Arcadian Lykaia (for the Greeks) or Lupercalia (for the pre-Romans) was a cleansing festival to release the purity, health and fertility of a city and its inhabitants.  There is debate whether it was a Greek or a Roman celebration first, but seeing how the Romans throughout history basically stole their history from the Greeks, we’ll say the Greeks get the praise on this one.  It was a celebration to the Greek god Pan (or the Roman equivalent Faunus) and goats and dogs were sacrificed while salt mealcakes were burned by Vestal Virgins.  I don’t have a goat; my dogs will NOT be sacrificed; and it’s pretty darned hard to find a Vestal Virgin around these parts — so we’ll just go back to the more modern version of the holiday.

If you ask most anyone why Valentine’s Day is celebrated, those who believe they know their history will say it’s because Saint Valentine was beheaded on February 14th.  Problem is, which Saint Valentine?  There’s Saint Valentine of Rome and Saint Valentine of Terni.  There is also record of another Valentine who was martyred in Africa but not much information is known about him.  True, Saint Valentine of Rome’s skull is still venerated by many and crowned with flowers while on exhibit at the Basilica of Santa Maria in Cosmedin, Rome.  Saint Valentine of Terni is also buried on the Via Flaminia but not close to Saint Valentine of Rome.  Who knows what kinds of arguments might break out if they were close together.

The legend continues that Saint Valentine (it’s not noted which one) was arrested by Roman Emperor Claudius II who attempted to convert Valentine to Roman paganism.  Valentine refused, even though he was told he would be put to death if he did not convert, and attempted to convert Claudius II to Christianity.  As he was being held in prison, awaiting his execution, Valentine supposedly became enchanted with the jailer’s blind daughter.  The story ends with either Valentine leaving a love letter that he wrote the evening before his execution to the blind daughter professing his undying love (thus, the first “Valentine”) or that Valentine cured the jailer’s daughter of her blindness before being beheaded.  Either way, his head was lopped-off and it still baffles me why we don’t get boxes of little chocolate decapitated heads full of chewy goodness instead of the giant heart-shaped things.

However, the heart-shaped things were introduced into the holiday because of the possible love that Saint Valentine may or may not have had for the blind girl.  The first reference of love in connection with Valentine’s Day most likely came from Geoffrey Chaucer’s poem Parlement of Foules, written to commemorate the first anniversary of the engagement of King Richard II to Anne of Bohemia.  Because Chaucer refers to Valentine’s Day in the poem, many believed that he was writing about February 14th.  A little-known fact (unless you’re an English major like me and had to read Chaucer whether you liked it or not) is that Chaucer may have been referring to May 2nd, a celebration in the liturgical calendar of Valentine of Genoa.  You could  have guessed that religion would have crept back in even if the original Valentine story wasn’t true.  There may have been other writers who referred to February 14th and Valentine’s Day in their work, but dating medieval writings can be difficult and Chaucer is pretty well-known (for good or for bad) so I’m sticking with this version.  And it would make sense that Chaucer was referring to May 2nd because he spoke of birds seeking their mates and, even back in the 14th century, February was a little early and cold for birds to be thinking of mating.  But if this is the true version, then I guess we should be biting the heads off of small candy birds.  I do that with Peeps around another religious/pagan spring festival, but I digress.

So, where does it all come from?  We know the popular tradition of giving cards was done as a marketing ploy which makes publishers large sums of cash every February as people panic for something to send so they’re not picked-out as the one who forgot what holiday it was.  And of course florists jump-in with the flowers and candy and balloons which makes Valentine’s Day their equivalent of Black Friday for the year (at least until Mothers’ Day comes along).  Kids in American schools are either (1) required to purchase little cards that they can exchange with EVERY member of their class to show that they “want to be their Valentine” or (2) are forbidden to bring ANY cards, candy, etc. to school to share with their classmates for fear that someone might be forgotten, someone might get their feelings hurt, someone will think it’s a religious holiday, or because someone has a peanut allergy.  And, yes, I know that paper cards don’t have peanuts in them, but the person addressing the cards might have been munching on peanuts while writing their little name on the card or, more likely, the wealthier parents who want to show their child has more and attempts to “buy” the favor of his/her classmates by attaching large bags of candy to the card which could have peanuts.  It’s a vicious cycle.

The only St. Valentine’s “celebration” I can think of that won’t offend anyone religiously or cause them anaphylaxis is commemorating the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre of 1929.  For those who don’t know their history on this subject, I’ll make it brief ’cause otherwise I could do a huge post on this event alone.

On February 14, 1929, members of Al Capone’s South Side Italian gang waited across the street from 2122 North Clark Street in the Lincoln Park area of Chicago.  They were waiting for Capone’s rival gang boss, George “Bugs” Moran, who led the North Side Irish gang, to arrive at that address.  Moran had been lured there supposedly with the promise of cut-rate whiskey from Detroit’s Purple Gang, friends of Al Capone.  Capone wanted revenge for prior killings by Moran’s gang and only wanted Moran targeted in this hit, not the entire North Side gang.  Moran’s men had arrived at the garage early that morning but Moran and one of his assistants was running late.  When Moran arrived behind the garage, he saw a police car arrive and decided to wait elsewhere.

What Moran didn’t know was that the police car was there as part of Capone’s plan for his associates to escape.  Capone had hired hitmen from outside the Chicago area so that Moran wouldn’t be able to recognize them.  Two of the men wore police uniforms and entered the garage as if conducting a raid.  The five members of Moran’s gang and two associates were lined-up against the brick wall as if they were to be searched.  As the men were facing the rear wall of the garage, two more of Capone’s men entered and the four hitmen, using two Thompson submachine guns and two shotguns, murdered the men inside and then escaped by having the “police officers” escort the other two men to the waiting police cars.  Witnesses told the police that they saw policemen leaving the area with two men “in custody.”

It wasn’t until Highball, a German Shepherd owned by one of the victims, began barking and howling that anyone came to look inside the garage.  Highball and Frank Gusenberg, who despite being shot fourteen times refused to say anything about the killers before dying three hours later, were the only two survivors.  Photos of the gruesome aftermath were posted in newspapers around the country.

The infamous wall from 2122 North Clark Street (minus a few dozen bricks sold over the years by its previous owner) is now on display at the Las Vegas Mob Museum, so I guess if you want something non-traditional for your Valentine, you can take them there.

Me?  Maybe I’ll take the Thompson into the garage and fire a few blank rounds towards the brick walls in commemoration.  It’s less fattening than chocolate; it won’t die like cut flowers; and it’s a tradition I can do every February 14th.

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