Herald Journal Columns
Feb. 13, 2006, Herald Journal

Black Tuesday


A dark cloud has passed over the calendar, as it does every time this year.

February 14. Black Tuesday.

This ultimate Hallmark holiday is a bane to married and single people alike.

If one is married, it creates extra pressure to pull off some sort of grand romantic gesture.

The fact is, if you aren’t doing this sort of thing during the rest of the year, you already have problems.

But, even if you do make a regular effort to further the cause of romance on other days, if you fail to put on some sort of elaborate dog and pony show on this day in particular, you are going to be in the dog house anyway.

This is more true for men than for women, of course.

Women are a bit more high-maintenance in this regard.

They tend to expect some evidence of effort and commitment.

It is different for guys.

We don’t require anything special. We are happy if you just show up.

And we don’t need a fancy dinner. A beer and a burger will suffice.

Single people do not escape the pressure of the season either.

Every marketing agency in the country, along with an army of well intentioned friends and co-workers, gang up on the singles among us to try to convince them that there is still time to hook up before the big day.

I can’t help wondering if this does not fall under the “misery loves company” category.

Those in favor of relationships say they just want their single friends to be happy.

The fact is, some of the happiest people I know are single.

As strange as this holiday has become, its roots are even stranger

There is some difference of opinion regarding the precise origin, but the experts seem to agree on a few things.

For some 800 years, the Romans practiced a pagan celebration in mid-February.

The celebration, called “Lupercalia,” involved the pagan god Lupercus, and featured a lottery.

Young men would draw the names of teenage girls from a box.

The girl selected would become the man’s companion for the coming year.

This system was just plain wrong for a variety of reasons, and must have been painful for all for the parties involved.

Blind dates can sometimes seem like they go on forever, but can you imagine a blind date that goes on for a year?


The church looked for a way to eliminate the pagan festival.

Pope Gelasius changed the lottery, so that the names of saints, rather than young women were placed in the box.

Participants then had to emulate the saint for the year.

Valentine’s Day was the result of an attempt to improve the Roman army.

This was near the end of the Roman empire.

According to some sources, it was a time when learning declined, taxation increased, and trade slumped (this may sound familiar, but it was actually about 270 A.D.).

Soldiers were in high demand, and Emperor Claudius II decided that marriage was a distraction, and married men made poor soldiers. So, he outlawed marriage for young men.

Valentine was a priest in Rome. He apparently felt that the decree was unjust, and continued to perform marriages for young lovers.

When the emperor found out, he had Valentine put to death.

Some sources suggest that Valentine sent the first “Valentine” greeting.

Some say that he fell in love with a girl who may have been the daughter of his jailor. He wrote her a letter before his death, and signed it, “from your Valentine.”

In the US, commercial Valentine’s Day cards were introduced in the 1800s.

On the other hand, this may all be a load of romantic claptrap.

One Valentine’s Day symbol that does make sense is Cupid.

He shoots his arrow of love at unsuspecting individuals, and there is no doubt, if one dabbles in romance, one may end up getting the shaft.

On Tuesday, I will raise a glass to all of my single and nearly-single friends.

Don’t let the pressure get to you. Rejoice in your freedom! Enjoy a good thing while it lasts.

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