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Be Our Gal/Val entine!

In the last blog post I wrote, I mentioned some of the highs and lows of the month of February (as of today, only 35 days ‘til spring!). This weekend features not one, but TWO, made up holidays*!! Today, February 13 some will celebrate Galentine’s Day; tomorrow, some others might celebrate Valentine’s. So what’s up with these two days? (*after doing the research, I have to take that back – only one of these is actually “made up”.)

Galentine’s Day is a day for women to celebrate women friends. Kind of sexist, I admit, but I can still write about it because it’s not like *I* created this fake holiday. (I wonder how much money a person can make by creating a fake holiday?) I only started hearing about Galentine’s Day a few years ago. I was thrilled to learn that’s because this fake holiday was created only 10 years ago on the **iconic television series “Parks and Rec”. (**Possibly only iconic to those of us who were huge fans of the show.)

Leslie Knope, the fictional character who fictionally created Galentine’s Day, celebrated with a boozy waffle brunch with all of her besties, which I propose that I am going to do with all of my besties as soon as the pandemic is over. I think that celebrating friendship (female *or* male) is always a good idea, no matter the day, month, or season.

I happened to celebrate Galentine’s Day years before Leslie Knope was even a glimmer of an idea in Michael Schur’s mind (creator of “Parks and Rec”.) I just wasn’t savvy enough to give it a trendy name and market it. I often got together with other single friends for dinner or a movie and a wonderful evening with friends. But one pre-Galentine’s Day is particularly memorable…

I had moved into a 2nd floor apartment with my best friend, Lori. The people who had lived in the apartment before us had been an older retired couple who had covered the entire apartment in a deep, plush carpet (this is important). When they moved, they took the carpet with them. The hardwood floors underneath were absolutely gorgeous and in great condition, so except for a couple of throw rugs, we let the beautiful floor shine through. The very, very loud and creaky beautiful wood floors. The young married couple who lived on the first floor were not fans of this decision.

I’d like to point out that Lori and were (and still are, at times) extremely over-the-top accommodating-to-everyone type of people, and if our downstairs neighbors had politely knocked on our door one day and explained how loud we seemed to be, we would have done whatever we could to rectify the situation. Instead, they just banged on their ceiling with what we assume was a cannon. They thought we were loud?

They complained to the landlord incessantly. We explained what was really happening: we were watching TV and walked to the kitchen. They fired up the cannon: Bang! Bang! Cleaning the floors? Time for the big guns: BANG! If they met us in the hall on the way in or out of the building, they did everything they could to avoid us. They were very unhappy neighbors (understatement), but I have to admit they never sent us a dead fish or a glitter bomb (more on that later in this post).

We had lived in the apartment about 4 months when Valentine’s Day rolled around. We were both single. My sister was single. And a good friend (who also, I might add, was the minister of my sister’s and my church) was single. So, we decided to have them over for take-out and a movie. (oh, sidenote about the movie: they let me pick it out. I had heard amazing reviews of a quiet “under the radar” movie called “Strangers in Good Company”. Go ahead, google it. Try not to gag or fall asleep… My choice was wildly derided and I was never allowed to choose the movie again.)

Despite the poor movie choice, it was a fun, QUIET (we were watching a horribly boring movie, after all) evening. When the movie was over and we were cleaning up, someone spilled a bit of soda on the hardwood. Someone else walked quickly to the kitchen to get paper towels or something to sop it up before it damaged the floor. And then we said our good-byes and my sister and our friend left.

An hour or so later, our landlord called. He said that the tenants from the first floor called him, in tears (so I assume it was the wife, but who knows?), because we were having a “wild party” and it was so loud and they couldn’t sleep… I’m still kind of stupefied about that, and that was way more years ago than I want to admit.

And that’s the story of an OG Galentine’s Day, and how I broke a one-year lease after 4 months and getting our entire damage deposit back, anyway. And got “kicked out” of an apartment after watching a horrible movie with 3 good friends.

Valentine’s Day, as I assume most everyone knows, is all about the romantic love. I’ve always scoffed at Valentine’s Day as a “Hallmark” holiday, but Valentine’s Day actually started way before commercial card companies were even a thought in Mr. J.C. Hall’s mind (the founder of Hallmark cards). Actually, Mr. Hall wasn’t even born when St. Valentine was first celebrated and revered.

Valentine’s Day contains vestiges of both Christian and ancient Roman tradition, although there is much speculation as to *which* St. Valentine (apparently there were 3?) actually started the custom. While some believe that Valentine’s Day is celebrated in the middle of February to commemorate the anniversary of St. Valentine’s death or burial—which probably occurred around A.D. 270—others claim that the Christian church may have decided to place St. Valentine’s feast day in the middle of February in an effort to “Christianize” the pagan celebration of Lupercalia. Celebrated at the ides of February, or February 15, Lupercalia was a fertility festival dedicated to Faunus, the Roman god of agriculture, as well as to the Roman founders Romulus and Remus. The actual ritual of Lupercalia is something I’ll let you research on your own. Or, I might just write another blog post about obscure pagan rituals. Some of them sound like they could be pretty fun!

Valentine greetings were popular as far back as the Middle Ages, though written Valentine’s didn’t begin to appear until after 1400. The oldest known valentine still in existence today was a poem written in 1415 by Charles, Duke of Orleans, to his wife while he was imprisoned in the Tower of London following his capture at the Battle of Agincourt. (The greeting is now part of the manuscript collection of the British Library in London, England.) Several years later, it is believed that King Henry V hired a writer named John Lydgate to compose a valentine note to Catherine of Valois.

The very first known Valentine poem:

My very gentle Valentine,

Since for me you were born too soon,

And I for you was born too late.

God forgives him who has estranged

Me from you for the whole year.

I am already sick of love,

My very gentle Valentine.

Charles, the Duke of Orléans, in 1415

OK, so Valentine’s Day has been around forever and I’m going to have to stop calling it a Hallmark holiday. Today, though, I think people observe Valentine’s Day in one of four ways: celebrating romance with a loved one or familial love with the family; broken-hearted lovers who face the day with dread and a solid helping of wine or beer, chocolate and pizza (wait, just me? I mean, I’m not broken-hearted these days, but oh those college years…. never mind); stalwartly ignoring it; or possibly in the way I wish I had known about back in my college days – the vengeful Valentine’s Day.

Several clever zoos around the country have developed unique fund-raising campaigns: donate a certain amount of money, and they will name a cockroach after your ex and feed it to one of their animals. For a larger donation, they will let you name a pre-frozen rat after the ex of your choice, and feed it to a reptile…

If you’re not into that, there are other options. You can send glitter bombs. Or, if you prefer something tamer, a company is cashing in on this idea and they will send wilted flowers to your ex. Or melted chocolate. Or a dead fish.

There are definitely some exes who deserve a glitter bomb or melted chocolate, but perhaps it would be better to just head to your library, stock up on books and DVDs (romance or violence, totally up to you), and curl up at home this Sunday with a cup of tea or hot chocolate or a pitcher of margaritas and treat yourself the way you should be treated.

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