I've thought long and hard about what to get you this year to celebrate the beatification of Valentine. Valentine, as you undoubtedly recall, was a hopeless romantic. He was also a minor clergyman in Rome during the reign of Claudius II. He ran afoul of Claude when he refused to stop marrying Roman soldiers after Claude decreed all soldiers should be single and, thus, more willing to fight and die for the glory of Rome and less willing to want to return home alive to canoodle their wives.
To make a long story short, Claude tossed Valentine in jail, after which, for good measure, he had him beheaded. While jailed, Valentine fell deeply in love with the jailer's blind daughter. I'm not making this up. Being a man of God, he somehow cured her blindness. I'm not making that up either but I wouldn't be surprised if someone else hadn't. Anyway, before he lost his head, Valentine managed to bribe someone, possibly the jailer, to deliver a note to the now-sighted and beholden young woman. It read, simply, "From your Valentine."
Several centuries later, Pope Gelasius, as much a party-pooper as most Popes, decided it would be a good idea to co-opt the pagan celebration known as the Lottery of Lupercus, wherein brave Roman lads were paired with available Roman girls for a year of good old-fashion debauchery. He converted it into St. Valentine's Day. To celebrate that special day, the horny Roman lads and comely Roman women drew names of saints. Instead of spending the next year in carnal lust, they were to spend the year emulating the ways of the saints. You can imagine how thrilled they were about this change. And yet, inexplicably, Christianity managed to catch on. Go figure.
Skipping forward several centuries, we now celebrate St. Valentine's Day but being a more secular society, we simply call it Valentine's Day. Very few of us emulate the lives of saints though some of us dress like Mother Theresa, who is just one miracle short of sainthood.
Valentine's Day should probably be called Performance Anxiety Day, for that's what it is if you happen to be male in this part of the world. It's a no-win proposition. Chances are overwhelming that whatever you do for the woman you love, want to love, obsess about loving or the one who got a temporary restraining order against you for stalking her, will either fail to impress her or have so little lasting effect you may as well have had someone call her up and tell her your were kidnapped that day.
And if, by sheer luck, your imagination flies much higher than the trite trinity — candy, flowers, jewelry — and you manage to hit it out of the park on Valentine's Day, guess what? All you've done is escalate her expectations and set yourself up for failure next Valentine's Day. Ya win, ya lose. It shall ever be thus in affairs of the heart.
But I digress.
I thought about buying you candy for Valentine's Day. Since there are so many of you, the best I could have afforded was a few hundred pounds of those hard sugar hearts with cheesy, "Be Mine," messages printed on them in toxic food colouring. But really, in an age where post-pubescent girls perform simulated sex acts on stage both to the delight of their pre-pubescent fans and horror of those fans' mothers, the idea of candy hearts belongs to a time long past. Requiescat in pace.
Flowers, while always appreciated, seem so unsustainable on a town-wide scale. After all, what exactly is blooming in February within the 100-Mile Flower Diet? Flowers for one or two, no problem. But flowers for all of you? I might as well drive a Hummer.
Let's not even discuss jewels, you crazy dreamers.
So after much thought and personal sacrifice, I think I've hit on the perfect Valentine's Day gift for you all. Snow. No, don't thank me. I did it because I love you. And please, don't feel there's any need to reciprocate. Just knowing you're happy makes me happy.
Of course, I'm not sure Valentine's Day has quite the cachet it had only two years ago. As a holiday — in name only, of course — Valentine's Day has been compromised by the creatively named Family Day.
For as long as I can remember, Canadians looked achingly at our southern neighbours and wondered why we too didn't have a holiday to celebrate in February. The 'Mericans punched a patriotic holiday hole in February long ago, two actually, to celebrate Washington, the father of the country, and Lincoln, who forged one nation out of the crucible of the Civil War and then selflessly gave his life so that every man who followed might have a good excuse for not accompanying his wife to the theater when he could, as easily, stay home and watch Monday Night Football.
For decades, the birthdays of those two great presidents were celebrated on, not surprisingly, their birthdays. But their birthdays were just too close to each other: February 12 and 22. In a month so short the other months make fun of it, how could you celebrate two presidents and Valentines Day in between? It took the genius of time and marketing to solve the dilemma: Put them both together and make one good one, a three-day weekend people can celebrate all week! Not surprisingly, they called it Presidents' Week.
Unfortunately, while blessed with an abundance of winter, Canada is not blessed with any one, let alone two, leaders Canadians can agree to celebrate. And even if we could, the chance their birthday might fall in February — the month known nationally as Suicide Prevention Month — would be exceedingly slim.
And truth be told, even though British Columbians celebrated Family Day this week, Canada still has no national holiday in February. That having been said, Family Day truly captures the sine qua non of this vast, frozen country. It's something none of us can agree on.
PEI, Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta, celebrate a stat holiday on the third Monday in February, same as Presidents' Day. While the other provinces are clearly Presidents' Day copycats, Manitoba calls its day Louis Riel Day and PEI celebrates Islander Day.
In B.C. we celebrate on the second Monday in February, not because we're different but because it made better commercial sense, notwithstanding the B.C. Chamber of Commerce opposed the whole idea of a February holiday. OK, because we are different.
Quebec celebrates Carnaval for fully half of February and is still pissed off the rest of Canada dares celebrate anything in February.
New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Nunavut and whatever's left can't find anything to celebrate... so they don't.
And you can't get much more Canadian than that. So happy Valentine's Day.