Valentine’s Day, February 14

Valentine’s Day is February 14

Valentine’s Day is a day for romance and love, a day to take that special someone out for dinner, buy them chocolates, or get a special card or gift that would mean something to that person only.

The history of Saint Valentine is not clear, as there are multiple legends and accounts that have been passed down through time. However, the Catholic Church recognizes at least three different saints named Valentine or Valentinus, all of whom were martyred.

One legend is that Valentine was a priest serving in Rome during the third century. Emperor Claudius II had declared that single men made better soldiers and banned young men from getting married. Valentine, however, saw the injustice of this decree and secretly performed marriages for young lovers. When his actions were discovered, he was put to death by order of Claudius.

Another account holds that Valentine was actually Saint Valentine of Terni, a bishop who was also executed by Claudius II outside of Rome. Yet another legend suggests that Valentine was killed for helping Christians escape harsh Roman prisons.

One popular story is that Valentine fell in love with a young girl, possibly the jailor’s daughter, who visited him during his imprisonment. Before his death, it is said that he wrote her a letter and signed it “From your Valentine,” an expression that is still in use today.

The true history of Saint Valentine is uncertain, but what is clear is that he became a popular figure in England and France in the Middle Ages due to his reputation as a sympathetic, heroic, and romantic figure.

The placing of Valentine’s Day had more to do with the need to stop a pagan festival known as Lupercalia.  Lupercalia was a pagan ritual to gain fertility for people and the land.   Pagan priests of Rome would go to the cave where the founders of Rome Romulus and Remus were born.  There they would sacrifice a dog for purification and a goat for fertility.  They would then strip the goat of its hide, cut it into strips and dip the strips into the sacrificed blood. 

The priest, the matchmaker that they were, would go and gently slap the fields for crops and the women so they would both have a fertile year.  Far from being repulsed for having blood slapped on them the women rejoiced that it guaranteed fertility.

Later in the day, and this may not be true, the single women would all place their names in a large urn.  The singles guys all drew a name from the urn and would be paired with that woman for the coming year. Many of these matches would end in marriage.

The Festival or Lupercalia was held on the ides of February or February 15.  The church moved it one day back and made it Saint Valentine’s Day taking away the blood and the urn, but keeping the hopes of romantic love alive.

Now that you know all about Valentine’s Day go out and get that box of candy or the diamond ring or make the dinner reservation.  If you’re a woman, this is probably already done, if you’re a guy… well you can always find something at Walgreens.

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