Monday, February 6, 2012

My Italian Valentine

Saint Valentine was Italian, well, actually there are several possible candidates for the historical figure that became Saint Valentine, and all of them are Italian. Little is known about the saint other than that he was martyred on February 14.  In fact, the Saint Valentine's Day Massacre seems more likely an event to be associated with any candidate for the real Saint Valentine than would this holiday of cards and candy, with the exception of one account, that has Valentine martyred for performing marriage ceremonies when he was not supposed to be performing any Christian ceremonies. That has something to do with romance, right?

Cupid is Italian, I mean our cupid, the chubby little baby with wings. The Greek Eros was a slender youth, but the Romans sculpted him chubbier, in the renaissance he somehow became a Putto (what we incorrectly call a cherub) a male baby, sometimes with wings, but always carrying his bow and those insidious bolts of desire.

Though Punxsutawney Phil sounds like an Italian gangster the closest thing Italians have to groundhogs day is a proverb that goes "Se San Paol Pe ciar e la Ceriola sciira, De Pinverna no g'o pii paiira Milan" which means "If St Paul('s day) be clear and Candlemas cloudy, we have no more cause to be afraid of winter." (Candelmas is Feb2). This is a pretty obscure proverb, however. Most Italians are more familiar with April 4th as the day of weather prognostication. Another old saying goes "Quattro aprilante, giorni quaranta" or "Quattro aprilante, quaranta dì durant" literally "April 4, 40 days", meaning whatever the weather is like on April 4th it will be like for the next 40 days.

This February has 29 days, leap-year day is an unlucky day in Italian tradition. If a baby is born on Leap Year Day it is said that either the child or the mother will be dead within the year. OK, so maybe that was gloomy, but hey, it's Italian.

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