Here at the Radical Agenda, we strive daily to strike a delicate balance between our misogyny and hopeless romanticism. In a subverted society where women have been given unnatural powers they know not how to wield responsibly, it can be tempting to hate them. Yet, pair bonding and genuine affection are hard coded into the DNA of we Europeans. If we stop loving our women, we will quite literally cease to exist. So I beg of you brother, give not into cynicism about Valentine’s Day. Whether you are lucky enough to have a woman by your side today or not, this is a day for celebration.
And this is a very special Valentine’s Day indeed as it also falls on Ash Wednesday, a Christian day for peace and the first day of Lent, which is six weeks of repentance before Easter.
Fitting then, that the Jews are less than enthusiastic about today. There are many historical reasons for Jews to avoid February 14, apart from its blatantly Christian name and immodest connotations, according to Haaretz.
So whence this festival? St Valentine was a martyr of the late Roman Empire; actually there seem to have been three or even four Saint Valentines, all supposedly martyred in late antiquity. A feast on this day was established in his, or their honor. However many St Valentines had really existed, all would be no doubt disturbed by the contemporary nature of the day that bears their name.
The amorous legends that came to surround this day are understood to have been developed in 14th century England, notably by Geoffrey Chaucer and his circle, when the feast day of February 14th first became associated with romance and erotic pairing, at a time when courtly love was emerging into vogue. It didn’t become a full-fledged commercially viable love-day until the 19th century.
Actually, Valentines might have been a Christianized version of Lupercalia, an ancient post-winter-early-spring Roman fertility and purification festival that was observed on February 15th in which boys slapped women with bloody goat’s hides.
Not to be a romantic spoiler, there is a grim, long forgotten reason for Jews not to rush out to invest in lingerie or make dinner reservations. According to Cecil Roth in his classic ‘The Jewish Book of Days’, it was on this day in 1349 that the Massacre of Strasbourg took place, perhaps the worst of the many anti-Jewish outrages that occurred during the Black Death. The locals had blamed fluctuations in the price of corn on the Jews, whom they suspected of being protected by the city council.
It was on February 14th that a mob barricaded the Judengasse (Street of the Jews) and drove the whole Jewish community into the cemetery where they built a huge pyre. About two thousand Jewish men, women and children were burned to death.
A new council was installed shortly after, and officially barred Jews from the city for a century.
So there you have it folks, sainthood, European breeding, and ash worship all on the same day. What’s not to love?
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