February is coming, and we all know what that means!!!!!
VALENTINE’S DAY…. a day of candy, flowers, poems, and expressions and declarations of LOVE…..Romance and Dreams.
But where did Valentine’s Day originate? Who thought of it? And why? Believe it or not, it wasn’t the greeting card companies. Or Hollywood. No, the origins of Valentines Day goes back in history much, much further than most of us realize. Well, we decided to look it up, and its really a rather fascinating story.
The entire history of Valentine's Day is a complicated maze of fact and legend, fancilful stories and romantic tales, all woven around truth, or at least what we know of it. The roots of Valentine’s Day do come from the ancient Roman festival of Lupercalia, which was a fertility celebration that was commemorated every year on February 15.
Pope Gelasius I changed what he considered a pagan festival to a Christian feast day in A.D. 496, declaring February 14 to be St. Valentine's Day.
But exactly which St. Valentine Gelasius meant to honor remains a mystery to this day. According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, there were three Christian saints by the name Valentine. One was a priest in Rome, another a bishop in Terni, and of a third St. Valentine is mostly a mystery, except it is know that he died in Africa. The astonishing fact is that all three Valentines supposedly died on Feb. 14.
The Roman Catholic Church officially recognized St. Valentine as the one who died around A.D. 270, though is true identity was even questioned by Pope Gelasius I who referred to him as “being known only to God”. This Priest attracted the disfavor of Roman Emperor Claudius II around A.D. 270. During the lifetime of Valentine, the golden era of Roman empire had almost come to an end. Lack of quality administrators led to frequent civil strife. Education declined, taxation increased and trade witnessed a very bad time. The Roman empire faced crisis from all sides, from the Gauls, Slavs, Huns, Turks and Mongolians from Northern Europe and Asia. The empire had grown too large to be shielded from external aggression and internal chaos with existing forces. Naturally, more and more capable men were required to to be recruited as soldiers and officers to protect the nation from takeover. When Claudius became the emperor, he felt that married men were more emotionally attached to their families, and thus, will not make good soldiers. He believed that marriage made the men weak. So he issued an edict forbidding marriage to assure quality soldiers. The ban on marriage was a shock to the Romans but they didn't dare voice their feelings against the Claudius.
Valentine realized the injustice of Claudius' decree and saw the trauma it caused young lovers who wished to be united in marriage. Thus he decided to go against the Emperor's orders in secrecy. When lovers wished to marry they went to Valentine who met them in secret and joined them in matrimony. But Claudius discovered what Valentine was doing and had him arrested.
While in prison Valentine's jailor, Asterius, approached him, and believing that Valentine possessed saintly abilities, requested that Valentine restore his blind daughter's sight. Legend states Valentine was able to do this through his strong faith. But he refused to recognize the Roman Gods the Emperor Claudius II worshiped, angering Claudius II who then gave the order of execution.
Before his execution, Valentine wrote a message to Asterius' daughter and signed it "From Your Valentine". It is believed that Valentine was executed on February 14, 270 AD.
Enough confusion regarding facts versus legend versus romantic story surrounds the true identity and life of St. Valentine that the Catholic Church revised its liturgical calendar and removed the feast days of saints in 1969. St. Valentine’s name however remains on the church’s list of officially recognized saints.
The official Roman Catholic roster of saints shows about a dozen who were named Valentine, the most recent being St. Valentine Berrio Ochoa, a Spaniard of the Dominican order who traveled to what is today known as VietNam and was beheaded in 1861 and canonized in 1988.
In the Basilica of Santa Maria in Cosmedin, Rome you will find the skull of St. Valentine on display, usually adorned with flowers. The excavation of a catacomb near Rome in the early 1800’s yielded the skeletal remains and other relics associated with St. Valentine. You can find other bits of his skeleton on display in the Czech Republic, Ireland, Scotland, England and France, as is the customary tradition that bits and pieces of a Saint’s body be distributed to reliquaries around the world.
It is believed that it was not until 1375 that this Christian feast day became associated with love and romance when medieval English Poet Geoffrey Chaucer composed a poem in honor of the engagement between England's Richard II and Anne of Bohemia. In his poem “Parliament of Foules” he links courtly love with the celebration of St. Valentine’s feast day, which did not exist until after his poem received widespread attention. It refers to February 14th as the day birds and humans come together to find a mate. “For this was sent on St. Valentyne’s day, when every foul cometh to choose his mate”. With this line he may very well have invented the holiday we know today as Valentine’s Day.
By the 18th century Valentine’s Day had developed into an occasion of gift-giving and exchanging romantic cards in England and then spread to the United States.
Valentine's Day is now one of the major holidays in the U.S. According to the Greeting Card Association, 25% of all cards are Valentine's Day cards and are often decorated with hearts to symbolize love and romance. One of the earliest known valentines card was sent in 1415 AD by Charles, Duke of Orleans, to his wife while he was imprisoned in the Tower of London. This card remains preserved in the British Museum.