If you trace the origins of Valentine’s Day, you won’t find a pretty picture. One legend claims that a Roman priest named Valentine was executed on February 14, 269 AD, for marrying couples against the advice of Emperor Claudius II. He figured single men were more enthusiastic about fighting his battles than family men. Somehow this grim tale resulted in heart-shaped cards, chocolates, red roses and candlelit dinners on February 14.
Humans are hopeless romantics, considering all the quaint love-infused traditions. Many I heard as a child. For example, if you twist the stem of an apple, you can predict the last name of your future love interest. Each rotation represents one letter of the alphabet. My search for sweethearts was restricted because the apple stems generally broke off at the letter D or E. I wonder how many eligible Xangs, Youngs and Zedenkas I overlooked in my quest for romance.
Another example features birds: if a robin flies over your head on Valentine’s Day, you’ll marry a sailor. Finding a sailor in my prairie city was no simple feat. If sailor was a misprint for tailor or wholesaler, my chances might have improved. The maddening catch with traditions is that they’re tough to apply universally.
Continuing with the legend, if a sparrow flies overhead, you’ll marry a poor man but you’ll be happy. Based on personal experience, poor men are always plentiful, no matter where you live. So are sparrows. Erect a birdhouse in your backyard and see what stakes a claim first, yellow canaries or sparrows.
But if a goldfinch flies overhead on Valentine’s Day, you’ll marry a millionaire. The legend doesn’t expand on whether you’ll be happy with your millionaire. Apparently hooking up with one is reward enough. Since I don’t know what a goldfinch looks like, that sweet bird of opportunity might have flown past without my knowledge.
Now, let’s say you’ve met Mr. or Ms. Right and you’re ready to start a family. How many children will you have? Go back to that dubious apple, the one missing its stem. Cut it in half and count the seeds. If nothing else, I know why we’re statistically producing 2½ children in each household. All of this apple-dividing is giving us fractional kids.
Despite the strange legends, Valentine’s Day holds a special place in my heart and funny bone. It was February and I was staying in a hotel for a work project in Prince Albert, Sask. Waiting next to me at the elevator was a cute young man. When the door opened, we walked in together and pressed our floor numbers. Simultaneously, we glanced down at fresh dog doo in the corner.
“Did you do that?” he asked.
“No, I’d remember that.” He eventually convinced me to go out with him. And the rest is history.
I wonder if there’s a romantic legend about discovering your sweetheart over dog poop. If not, I should start one. It worked for me because a few years later I said, “I doo!”