for a moment of joy or moments no one pays for, i give myself a ‘jornal’. this makes me rich. try it.

Who is St. Valentine?

 I give myself a ‘jornal’ of $500 for this new knowledge. How much is yours?

Think red on Valentine’s Day and the image of a beating heart comes to mind. Run to a flower shop for roses and a love note to give to that special someone and presume your gesture like millions of others on this day began centuries ago by a lover. But who really knows how Valentine’s Day came to be. 

Vague ideas about it have always hovered in people’s minds. But a search for the real Valentine goes back to a pre-Christian practice, which was later layered over by some genuine act of “sweetness and thoughtfulness” from a “holy man”. The rite honors the Roman goddess Februato Juno in a “ lewd superstitious custom of boys drawing the names of girls on the fifteenth of this month.” As in most manner of conversion to Christianity, pastors substituted the honored goddess with “the name of a saint in billets given on this day,” and thus, St. Valentine.

Who is St. Valentine? The few lines written about him have spawned a legend that in fact, there are three St. Valentine.  Closer look reveals St. Valentine as not three but just one, a “temple priest jailed for defiance during the reign of the Roman emperor, Claudius, the Goth (Claudius II)” around mid-250 A.D. or the early centuries of Christianity. Valentinus was caught “marrying Christian couples and aiding Christians who were being persecuted.” While in prison, Valentinus is said to have tried to convert Claudius, who took a liking for him.  Such attempt proved fatal for the priest whom Claudius ordered beheaded at the Flaminian Gate in 269.

A clue as to why the emperor almost had a change of heart for Valentinus: the priest cured his jailer’s daughter of her blindness. A link if not quite romantic but “sweet” to today’s “love-crazed” tradition was Valentine’s having left a note for this girl where he scribbled, “From your Valentine.”

Did Valentinus ever exist? Yes, he did. Archeologists have unearthed his remains in a Roman catacomb although he was supposed to have been buried on Flaminian Way shortly after his beheading at the gate. It took another 200 years before he was canonized saint by Pope Gelasius in 496 AD and marked February 14th as his feast in honor of his martyrdom. 

St. Valentine wears red, the color of blood to represent martyrdom. In his portraits, roses and birds surround him. In Christian tradition, he intercedes or is the patron saint of engaged couples (for a happy marriage), the young (and confused), those with epilepsy, or those plagued by fainting spells, bee keepers, and travelers.

For the shy and the lazy, the feast of St. Valentine’s should make a great excuse to declare love just this once a year.






February 12, 2009 Posted by | culturati news/views | Leave a comment

Gotham in the Mist

The city rose lifeless in the storm this morning. It stayed glued on a seamless sky, receding in the mist like a legend. The huddle of spires, bell towers, smoke stacks, brownstone boxes, glass towers, and steel spikes, seemed timeless in the smoky veil that shimmered in the sun.

Yet, it breathed. Its breathing was a dull hum like the rhythm of waves in a nautilus held to the ear. And it moved like a ghost slapping potted annuals, and whipping skeletons of trees.

When it wakened, the city was a mad woman, flailing unseen in the wind, riding on the smoke that billowed from chimneys. When it came to life, the city spewed flavors in the wind that wafted the aroma of spiced meat simmering in broths, marinated fowl roasting, and scented grain steaming in pots.

I had watched the city wrapped in legend from an insulated window looking east. I saw the opaque sky ripped like a dome, letting out heavy vapors that suffused the horizon. And through the mist from the same window, I watched it move in the wind, and sniffed its aroma from hairline cracks. But I could not decide whether I lived the legend or the dream.

For this conjured memory of New York, I give  myself a ‘jornal’ of $350. What’s yours?

Copyright © 2001 by Alegria Imperial, NY/Posted in

February 12, 2009 Posted by | lyrical prose, Uncategorized | Leave a comment