Posted in Modern Mythos, Pop Culture

“Ain’t” Valentine’s Day, AKA The Best I Could Do

About a year ago, I wrote a blog post about Ireland’s favorite saint, good ole Patty, for a certain spring holiday.

So this year, I thought I would cover another figure full of holiday cheer(plus, living like an adult has pretty much zapped me out of ideas so: reduce, reuse, recycle): St. Valentine.

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Ah yes, the man who is literally at the heart of the Hallmark movie channel’s second-favorite holiday(right behind Christmas, of course). St. Val might be capitalism’s favorite saint, as he gives millions of people excuses to buy items for their significant others(or discount candy for the lonely ones on February 15).

Everyone and their little brother hears the story of St. Valentine when they’re in elementary school. Imprisoned for his faith(which may or may not have included performing wedding ceremonies), he heals the blind daughter of his jailer to show the power of God. Though St. Valentine is martyred anyway, he leaves the girl he healed a note, signed “Your Valentine.”

Not really the romantic comedy of the year, cinematically-speaking.

So where did we get a holiday full of naked baby angels from a tale of martyrdom?

Honestly, scholars are as stumped as a Brazilian rainforest. But there are a few theories.

  1. Will the Real St. Valentine Please Stand Up?

Similarly to St. Patrick, historians aren’t too sure about which Valentine to whom all of these stories refer. In fact, there are eleven total saints named Valentine in the Roman Catholic Church, three of whom have strong connections with the date February 14. Though the story of St. Valentine supposedly takes place in Roman, records are few and far between to support these statements.

So you can see where some of this confusion lies.

2. Even to the Feast of These

According to documented church history, the feast of St. Valentine was set in place by Pope Gelasius I around 496 AD. Concerning Valentine, he supposedly included him in a list of church martyrs “whose names are justly reverenced among men, but whose acts are known only to God.”

Nice words, to be sure. But Gelasius may have had an ulterior motive.

You see, there was another festival in Rome that took place on February 15 named Lupercalia. For anyone who didn’t take Latin in middle school, or has no concept of J.K. Rowling’s wordplay in the Harry Potter series, “luper” connects to the word “wolf,” although even earlier sources connect the festival to the word “februa,” meaning “to purge,” from which we get(you guessed it) our word for February. So what’s up with the wolf festival?

I am SO glad you asked; this is what I live for.

Based on the Roman empire’s favorite founding fable, the festival of Lupercalia took place in the cave where Rome’s founder Romulus and his twin Remus grew up, mothered by a she-wolf all the way into adulthood. It also featured the worship of everybody’s favorite goat god, Pan, in exactly the way you’d expect.

Running through the streets naked, hitting women and children with whips as they passed.

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Move over, Fifty Shades; there’s a new circus in town.

The “purpose” behind Lupercalia was not simply worship-based, either. The purging of Rome took place in the form of driving out evil spirits and restoring the health of its inhabitants. End result? Fertility. Lots and lots of babies.

Needless to say, Pope Gelasius was not a fan of such orgies. So, as the story goes, he established a church holiday, the feast of St. Valentine, to replace Lupercalia in Rome and throughout the empire.

Now, to be fair, scholars seem to have largely discredited Pope Gelasius as the founder of St. Valentine’s feast, but you’ve got to admit, there’s a lot of similarities between the Lupercalia of ancient Rome and the Valentine’s Day of the present.

But wait! There’s more!

3. Seynt Volantynys Day

The first piece of historical evidence that we have to credit for the romanticizing of Valentine’s Day comes from everyone’s favorite Middle English poet, Geoffrey Chaucer.

As Chaucer wrote in Parlement of Foules:

“For this was on seynt Volantynys day
Whan euery bryd comyth there to chese his make.”

Translation for those of us who know how to use autocorrect:

“For this was on Saint Valentine’s Day
When every bird cometh there to chase his mate.”

This poem was written to commemorate the first anniversary of King Richard II to Anne of Bohemia. And there’s only one glaring problem with connecting it to the romance of our modern holiday.

Valentine’s Day is February 14; the anniversary in question isn’t until May 2.

Plus, birds aren’t mating in England in the middle of February; it’s hard to shake a tailfeather when it’s still snowing outside.

Turns out, there’s ANOTHER feast of St. Valentine, this time of Genoa, that generally took place on May 3.

This is one of the issues we come across when we try to dissect oral traditions; the whole truth of this holiday probably lies somewhere between the pretty stories we’re told as children and the mass confusion of scholars everywhere.

But do pretty stories even affect the spirit of the holiday? Even with a “holy” founder like St. Valentine, this upcoming holiday mirrors the Lupercalia of ancient Rome more than one of Chaucer’s feast days. Do we hold all myths as myths, or do we reject them outright, bound to celebrate as the rest of humanity does whether its origins are true or not?

Whatever, just don’t run naked through the streets this month, that’s all I ask. Not in Michigan, at least, it’s way too cold.

Happy Valentine’s Day. ❤

Posted in Television and Film

The Herculean Task: My Top Ten Star Wars Characters

You can almost smell it in the air, the culmination of a year’s worth of anticipation. It’s everywhere, on the radio, on commercials, like a song you can’t get out of your head, and wouldn’t want to even if you could.

It’s Star Wars season.

Okay, so maybe it’s not technically as culturally(definitely not religiously) relevant as Christmas. But there are a lot of similarities: redemption, corruption, the all-reaching power of an empire, the journey of the chosen one.

Anakin’s no Jesus, but at least in terms of timing, George Lucas knows what he’s doing.

Pretty much anybody who has known me for any amount of time knows how much I love Star Wars. I was reading Star Wars novels at 9. I dressed up as a Jedi Padawan for multiple Halloweens. I have tiny Star Wars figurines hidden throughout my bedroom, my car, even in the pots of my plants.

Man. This is turning out to be quite the therapy session.

Anyway.

I thought that since this is a Star Wars second weekend(though I still haven’t seen it so if you spoil me, I will do unspeakable things in revenge, don’t even try), I would give you my official countdown of the best characters in the movie franchise(not counting anything else, because that would take a million years).

And don’t worry, there’s no Jar-Jar on this list. Meesa not an idiot.

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10. K-2SO

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Regardless of your stance on whether you thought Rogue One was good or not, K-2SO has cemented his place as my all-time favorite droid. Even if the promise of Alan Tudyk walking around in a robot suit wasn’t enough for me, he went far and beyond expectations with that improvised slap. The saltiness of C-3PO with the innocence of BB-8 gives him the first slot on this list.

9. Rey

Please remember that I haven’t seen the newest film yet, so based on the first of the new trilogy, this is where Rey falls. I love her can-do spirit and her ability to both work alone and with others – def reminds me of Luke that way. Plus, her hair is so cute! And she’s so brave! And Han Solo loves her!

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8. Finn

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Again, haven’t seen the new film yet, but I’m hopeful he lives up to the promise of the previous film. He’s got a redemption arc! He’s sassy! He doesn’t understand why anybody wants to go back to Jakku, and neither do I! Plus, he’s a really good and loyal friend – we all need more Finns in our lives.

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7. Every Ewok Ever

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So technically not *a* character, but look at how cute they are! Does it matter which one is my favorite? Heck no! They’re like aborigine teddy bears! Half of them are played by Warwick Davis! What’s not to love?!?!

6. Princess Leia

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The sass alone is legendary. Walking carpets? Only liking nice men? Minus two points for a slave outfit, plus 1,000 for cinnamon bun hair. If your fav’s hair doesn’t look tasty, then what are you even doing with your life?

5. Han Solo

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What makes Han Solo rank about Princess Leia? The fact that Harrison Ford made up about 95% of his lines. There’s really no other reason. He just single-handedly saved George Lucas from his own curse of wooden dialogue.

4. Padme Amidala

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Queen with a capital Q. As the highest-ranking female on this list, I consider Padme to be highly underappreciated by the general public. Have you seen her outfits?? AND she prefers diplomacy to swinging around little laser sticks?? My kind of girl, I’m telling you(plus, she’s the only person who knows how to deal with yousa-know-whosa).

3. Qui-Gon Jinn

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Long-haired Liam Neeson = mentor goals. My favorite thing about him? He LIVES for drama. Go ahead, throw around the words “chosen one” all over the place. Let a child podrace for his freedom. Die in somebody’s arms. One thing’s for sure, Qui-Gon never does things by halves.

2. Yoda

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The Methuselah of the SW universe. Who doesn’t love a hungry old hermit who lives in a swamp? And he’s so small?? He could fit inside a sweatshirt like a baby kangaroo. Also, he’s a Jedi who’s seen the downfall of the republic and lived in hiding for years, and instead of being bitter and mean, he’s just gotten really, REALLY weird. Speaking cryptic crap all over the place.

Basically, when I grow up, I want to be Yoda.

1. Obi-Wan Kenobi

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Anyone who knows me fairly well will have realized who’s at the top of this list.

Light of my life. Keeper of the high ground.

Hello there.

What makes Obi-Wan my favorite Star War character? Similarly to Yoda, he’s someone who has SEEN things. His master murdered. His apprentice and best friend turned to the dark side. And yeah, he does his own little stint in hermitage, but you can tell that he never gives up hope. After all, he’s still willing to take on the whiny son of his even whinier enemy.

Can’t ever say that the man held a grudge.

Plus, throughout it all, he keeps his dry sense of humor.

Obi-Wan, we do not deserve you.

 

Posted in Music

Crazy for Christmas Carols – A Theory

It’s December, so now I can officially wish everyone a “Merry Christmas.”

Yes, I am one of those people who refuses to start celebrating Christmas until December 1. No, it’s not because I lack Christmas spirit: I love Christmas so much that I want to keep it special. Christmas ceases to be Christmas when it lasts 1/4 of the year. It’s like eating dessert for three months straight.

Simply stated: when you play Christmas music in October, you ruin my Christmas.

Now, because I’m out of the dorms for the first time in four years, my Christmas has not been spoiled, and I’m ready to listen to Christmas music again. But right before I hit play, something occurred to me.

Why are people so crazy about Christmas music, anyway?

Other than the fact that it’s verboten for eleven months of the year. Several theories quickly sprung to mind, each one more credible than the last.

Theory One: Somebody’s favorite song of all time is a Christmas song.

We all know the many virtues of Mariah Carey’s All I Want for Christmas is You. Or maybe you’re a classicist, choosing Perry Como and Bing Crosby over that new canned stuff. Or, maybe you’re a suburban Michael Buble mom. No judgment.

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The point is, maybe Christmas songs are your Kryptonite. Christmasite.

You know what I mean.

Theory Two: The only instrument someone knows how to play is a jinglebell.

Not really a theory.

Just wanted to be mean.

Theory Three: Nobody ever has to relearn the words to Christmas songs.

This is the strongest of my theories, aka the only viable one. The reason why people love Christmas music so much is because they know all of the words by heart, and people are by nature stupidly lazy.

Plus, there are rarely new Christmas songs to learn.

Hear me out on this one: when was the last time there was an original Top 40s yuletide hit? “All I Want for Christmas is You?” “River?”

It’s been a while, folks.

Not that people don’t try to write new Christmas songs, mind you. Almost every Christmas album is 95% Christmas covers with one or two originals thrown into the mix.

Doesn’t mean they’re any good.

Doesn’t mean they’ll stop trying, either.

But as creatures of habit, we naturally gravitate toward what we know. There is something really comforting about turning on a radio station and knowing the words to every song, and having everyone around you know them, too.

It reminds me of when I was in middle school and I was only allowed to listen to Family Life Radio and NPR. I so badly wanted to know all of the songs that my friends did, to be part of the cool crowd, to understand their references so I could laugh along, too.

Probably still guilty of these sentiments today.

So, enjoy your Christmas music, lemmings. Drink your cup of good cheer. Go ahead and wassail or waffle or whatever it is you do.

I will sit here with my sensible, prudent, and well-timed festivities-you gotta be a Grinch BEFORE your heart grows two sizes too big, you know.

ALSO, if you feel like getting into the Christmas spirit in a timely fashion, here is my go-to Christmas playlist with zero repeat songs(there are only so many versions of O Holy Night that a person can stomach on a seasonal basis). Also, zero repeat artists, because Michael Buble does not deserve premium space every Christmas season. Plus, I’ll be adding to it throughout the season.