History of Valentine’s Day
Over the years, February 14th has been one of those times when thousands across Australia and worldwide exchange flowers, candy and any other gift. “It is a show of love,” they say.
“Happy Valentine’s Day!” your loved one will wake you up early in the morning. But have you ever wondered who this mysterious “Valentine” is? Well, let me surprise you a little bit… he is a saint. Yes, you read that correctly, a saint. This article will teach you about the history of this centuries-old holiday.
St. Valentine Legend
For thousands of years now February has been celebrated as the month of love. But the history of this particular day and that of its patron saint is one that has been surrounded with a dense cloud of mystery. The day carries the elements of both the Christian and Roman tradition. But wait, who is Saint Valentine? When did he get linked up with this day?
There are at least three saints in the Catholic Church possessing the named Valentine or Valentinus. All these have one thing in common – they were martyred. In one of the most conspicuous legend, there was a priest with name Valentine who served during the third century of the Roman Empire. Emperor Claudius II arrived at the conclusion that single men served better in the military as opposed to married men. For that reason, he made it illegal for the young to get married. But Valentine wasn’t going to take this lying down. He saw it as discrimination and secretly continued to marry off the young people.
But nothing stays hidden for long and he was soon to be discovered. Consequently, Claudius released an order against the priest. “Kill him!” he decided. Valentine was either hanged or crucified as it was a custom that time.
There are some other stories that suggest that Valentine’s death was triggered by the help he lends to Christian who fled from the torturous Roman prisons. One such legend states that Valentine was imprisoned from where he wrote the first “Valentine” letter. The imprisoned Valentine fell in love with one young girl, a daughter to his jailor. The two love birds faced a rough love with the girl frequently paying him a visit.
The legend goes on to explain that Valentine wrote his love a letter with the signing “From your Valentine,” an expression that many have become accustomed to up to this day.
As much as proving most of these Valentine legends is almost impossible, they all have some things in common. They insist on sympathy, heroism and most importantly, romance. Due to his widespread reputation, Valentine had become a popular figure by the Middle Ages.
Is Valentine’s Day a Pagan Festival?
The common belief is that Valentine’s Day is middle-placed in February as a commemoration of Valentine’s death. But not all agree. There is a group of people that believes Valentine’s Day is a Christian way of “Christianize” Lupercalia – a pagan celebration.
Before 270 A.D., Lupercalia used to be celebrated every February 15th. This was a celebration meant to appease Faunus, the Roman god of agriculture.
This is how the celebration was done. Members of the Luperci, an order of Roman priests, came together in caves to slaughter a goat and a dog. The goat was meant for fertility and the dog for purification. The blood of both was collected in a bowl in which the goats hide was dipped and use to slap the women and crops in the field.
If you thought this was torture to the women then you are a mistake. In fact, they all loved it. The women would line in the streets as they eagerly waited for the purifying slap. They believed it would make them fertile. After the practice, all the involved women would write their names and drop them in a city urn. Bachelors in search of a wife would then come by, pick a name and the two became a couple.
A Day of Romance
The pagan ritual was able to withstand Christianity for 4 consecutive centuries. By the 5th Century, the Catholic Church got a new leader – Pope Gelasius. His ascend to the seat eventually saw him declare February 14 to be St. Valentine’s Day. Years later on, this day was linked to love. The common belief across France and England was that Feb 14 signified the start of the birds mating season. It is for the same reason that many saw this as a perfect day for Romance.
The very first Valentine greetings began to appear after 1400 but historians believe the greetings can be dated as back as the Middle Ages. The currently known oldest Valentine is one poem written by Charles, Duke of Orleans, to his wife from the Tower of London prison in 1415. A few years later, historians believe that King Henry V employed a writer by the name John Lydgate to compose Valentine messages for his wife Catherine of Valois.
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