Because I haven’t been there on April 25, a reMARKable date in the City of Canals. It’s the feast of St. Mark the Evangelist, whose relics are in St. Mark’s Basilica on Piazza San Marco, where you’ll also see a winged lion, symbol of the saint, atop a column. There’s even a street called Via XXV Aprile, so close is the date linked with the city's patron.
And since my name is Mark, April 25 is my name day or saint’s day, I’m fascinated by the Venetian customs. But my story begins in Slovakia, where I would MARK the occasion like anyone else celebrating a name day, a tradition that had become largely secularized after four decades of Communist Party rule. (Name days exist largely in Catholic and Orthodox traditions, where there’s a saint for every day of the year.) I would provide wine or schnapps for my teacher colleagues – yes, alcohol in a secondary school, I know, I know – and fellow choir members. They would give me flowers and candy. Females, a majority in both groups, would line up to shake hands, kiss me on the cheek, and say, “I wish you all the best on your name day: lots of love, happiness, and success, but mainly love.” They almost competed with each other at elocution.
Venice's association with St. Mark goes back to 828, when according to legend, his bones were smuggled out of Alexandria, Cairo. In pig lard or some form of pork, so the story goes, so that the Muslim customs officials wouldn't even touch anything.
Nowadays Venetian men give women roses, which has become a symbol of the day. There is a large procession and, naturally, a special Mass in the basilica. It also happens to be the anniversary of liberation in WWII. Here’s a web page that explains the customs more thoroughly.