Today Is ‘St Mel’s Day’, The Patron Saint of Single People Everywhere

Sure beats Valentine's Day.

St Mel

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If you’re single on Valentine’s Day, chances are you’re feeling a tiny bit sad. It’s inevitable, really, on a day that aggressively sells romantic relationships. Maybe you could try to cheer yourself up by celebrating Galentine’s Day on February 13, kicking it breakfast-style with your friends like Leslie Knope in Parks and Recreation.

But Galentine’s Day really only swaps romantic relationships for another variety of emotional dependence on others. Plus, it’s a made-up TV thing. This year, why not celebrate a bona fide Catholic saint who lived alone, and whose feast day is exactly a week before Valentine’s Day?

Introducing St Mel’s Day — the festival for single people!

Was Saint Mel A Real Person?

He sure was. While it’s hard to distinguish the actual lives of early Christians from the hagiographic ‘lives of the saints’ distributed as propaganda by the Roman Catholic Church, Mel was born in Roman Britannia in the fifth century CE, and travelled to Ireland with his brothers Melchu, Munis and Rioch as a disciple of his uncle Patrick. (Yes, the same guy who gets you lit on 17 March.)

It’s not clear how old Mel was when Uncle Pat showed up and recruited him as a missionary. But it’s not as if Mel ran off to Ireland with his uncle as an act of rebellion — basically his whole family were Christian apostles. (Mel’s closeness to his family gets important later on.) Even Mel’s dad Conis (also known as ‘Chonas the Briton’), founded a church in Donegal.

Mel and his brothers spread out to evangelise Ireland on behalf of Uncle Pat, who in 454 personally consecrated Mel as the Bishop of Ardagh, at Longford in the Irish midlands. Mel was also the abbot of the adjoining monastery; but he didn’t spend much time there. Instead he travelled around doing manual labour and giving most of his earnings to the poor.

Why Is He The Saint For Single People?

At one stage in his ministry, Mel was living on a farm with his aunt Lupait (also known as Lupita). She was another one of Patrick’s sisters and she wanted to learn from her pious nephew. But gossip started to spread that Mel and Lupait had developed more of a Game of Thrones idea of family closeness.

Obviously incest was extremely bad PR for the still-nascent Irish church, so Patrick personally came to the farm to check out this blasphemy. When he arrived, Mel was ploughing the fields; and to prove he wasn’t also ploughing his aunt, Mel performed a miracle — he pulled a live fish from the ground as if from a net! Lupait, meanwhile, established her own innocence by carrying hot coals without burning herself or her clothes.

The various chronicles don’t record whether these antics impressed Patrick, but he accepted that there was no fishy hot stuff happening on the farm. Still, he counselled his relatives that it was probably best if they lived separately. He ordered Bishop Mel back to Ardagh, and told Lupait to move further east to Druimheo. For propriety’s sake, a whacking great hill called Bri Leith separated the two towns.

Mel died in 488, and today he’s a pretty obscure regional saint. But he’s given his name to a cathedral in modern-day Longford, about 10km from the village of Ardagh where the ruins of his early church lie. And Mel’s feast day — which some sources give as February 6 and others as February 7 — is a local holiday for single people to celebrate everything they love about being single. Traditionally people will send themselves cards and host a party for their single friends.

I especially like St Mel because, while there are lots of Catholic saints who deal in singledom, they’re usually focused on helping you get safely married. For instance, the archangel Raphael is the patron saint of Catholic singles because in the Book of Tobit, like a sassy best friend in a rom-com, Raphael gives relationship advice to a guy called Tobiah and helps him marry his fiancée Sarah, whose previous seven bridegrooms had been slain by demons.

And St Anne (the Virgin Mary’s mum and Jesus’ grandma) is the patron saint of mothers and women in labour. Because she gave birth to Mary at an advanced age, she’s a symbol of hope to single Catholic women, who were urged to pray, “St Anne, St Anne, send me a man as fast as you can.”

Yeah… nah. How about praying instead: “St Mel, St Mel, make my life swell when singly I dwell.”

How To Throw A Ripper Mel’s Day Party

First rule of Mel’s Day parties — only single people are invited! However, the point isn’t to hook up with other singles — it’s to escape the tyranny of compulsory sexuality. It’s one night when you can just have fun eating, drinking, chatting, dancing, and generally being an autonomous person.

A great Mel’s Day dinner is a whole fish baked in a dough jacket — a symbol of the farm miracles wrought by Mel and Lupait. Here’s a nice recipe from the Sydney Fish Market. Serve with greens and potatoes, in honour of Mel’s adopted Irish homeland. If you’re planning more of a cocktail event, you could offer your guests cheesy toast canapés made by topping garlic bread with pre-sliced cheese singles before putting it under a hot grill. (No need to worry about putting anyone off with your garlicky breath.) And the only rings welcome on Mel’s Day are Cheezels and Burger Rings!

Drinks-wise: Guinness, Baileys or Irish whiskey would be thematically appropriate. And the best soft drink to use in your Mel’s Day cocktails? You’ve gotta crack a Solo. (Up to you whether to let it dribble down your chin as you slam it down fast.)

I’ve also made you a party playlist for Mel’s Day:

But as a rule, you should only play songs that were released as singles. Happy Mel’s Day everyone!

Mel Campbell is a freelance journalist and cultural critic. She tweets at @incrediblemelk.