How to Cut a Perfect Heart

Valentine’s Day, like every holiday, was a big deal in my house growing up. I have fond memories of my Mom, decorating the house with paper hearts and flowers, and making a special meal (which somehow involved red food dye?)
I even remember very clearly Mom teaching me how to cut out a perfect heart, folding in half diagonally a square of red or pink construction paper, and cutting the outside edge in a swoop, then unfolding to reveal a perfectly symetrical heart.

Now, especially since I am single, Valentine’s Day is not quite so much fun. It’s the one day of the year when you (I) feel particularly pathetic without a mate. But don’t feel too sorry for me. I did get two Valentines so far. From my aunt and uncle– they send silly ones every year and this year was no exception, plastic cupids included. And I got a Valentine from my roommate, who is of course going out on a hot date tonight. Oh, and my sister wants to take me out for dinner. But not tonight because she’ll be in L.A. for a gyrotonic training session.

And if I get totally desparate, there’s always Neil’s Emergency Valentine Day Hotline over at Citizen of the Month.

And if I start to feel really sorry for myself, there is always V-Day, a global movement to stop violence against women and girls.

And finally, I can thank god (or would that be gods?) that I don’t live in ancient Rome and am neither a goat nor a dog on February 15 for the festival of Lupercalia, which is the origin of the conveniently calendared christian St. Valentine’s Day

[Lupercalia ] began with the sacrifice by the Luperci (or the flamen dialis) of two male goats and a dog. Next two patrician young Luperci were led to the altar, to be anointed on their foreheads with the sacrificial blood, which was wiped off the bloody knife with wool soaked in milk, after which they were expected to smile and laugh [NOT SURE I’D BE LAUGHING WITH BLOOD DRIPPING DOWN MY FACE] ; the smearing of the forehead with blood probably refers to human sacrifice originally practised at the festival.

The sacrificial feast followed, after which the Luperci cut thongs from the skins of the victims, which were called Februa, dressed themselves in the skins of the sacrificed goats, in imitation of Lupercus, and ran round the walls of the old Palatine city, the line of which was marked with stones, with the thongs in their hands in two bands, striking the people who crowded near. Girls and young women would line up on their route to receive lashes from these whips. This was supposed to ensure fertility, prevent sterility in women and ease the pains of childbirth. This tradition itself may survive (Christianised, and shifted to Spring) in certain ritual Easter Monday
whippings.

And speaking of St. Valentine… did you know there really is not a St. Valentine, but rather that St. Valentine may refer to one or all of three martys that showed up in the history books around the same time that the Pope outlawed public pagan rituals. Hmm.

So, Happy Valentine’s Day, V-Day or Lupercalia, or whatever you may be celebrating.