Valentine's Day

Also known as St. Valentine's Day

History

There are varying opinions as to the origin of Valentine's Day but all agree it revolved around Bishop named Valentine who lived in the 3rd century in Rome. He was believed to live around 270 AD during the reign of Claudius II. It is historically known that the Roman Empire was failing due to being too far stretched and overreaching and after failed campaigns the Emperor banned marriage, believing that married men made poor soldiers or refused to enlist out of devotion and love for their family and lovers.

It is here that there are different accounts of the reason for Valentine's death. Some historians say that he was killed for trying to convert Romans to Christianity and was put to death for no denouncing his faith. Others believe that Valentine was performing secret marriages for couples and when caught he was sentenced to death. All accounts agree that he was killed February 14th which was a day reserve (in Ancient Greece) for "love lotteries", a practice associated with Lupercalia.

Many non-Christians believe that Valentine's Day was used to Christianize pagan holidays that were already being celebrated. Several holidays such as Christmas and Easter have this same pattern and several other smaller holidays are named after early Christian Martyrs. February 13-15th was originally a festival to celebrate fertility, regrowth and spring which may explain the association with love and romance. In 496 AD, Pope Gelasius turned Lupercalia into a Christian feast day and set its observance on February 14th.

But it was only during the 14th century that St. Valentine's Day became definitively associated with love. UCLA medieval scholar Henry Ansgar Kelly, author of "Chaucer and the Cult of Saint Valentine", credits Chaucer as the one who first linked St. Valentine's Day with romance. In medieval France and England it was believed that birds mated on February 14th. Hence, Chaucer used the image of birds as the symbol of lovers in poems dedicated to the day. In Chaucer's "The Parliament of Fowls," the royal engagement, the mating season of birds, and St. Valentine's Day are related: "For this was on St. Valentine's Day, When every fowl cometh there to choose his mate."

Variations on the stories

  • According to the Catholic Encyclopedia there were at least three early Christian saints by the name of Valentine, all three being martyred on February 14th.
  • While arrested, Valentine was approached by his jailer, Asterius, who heard that the Bishop could perform miracles and asked him to heal his blind daughter. Catholic legend states he did heal her because of his strong faith where as Protestant's disagree. A friendship formed between Valentine and his daughter, some saying deep love, and before his death he asked for a pen and paper to write her a note signing it "From Your Valentine" to which the phrase began.
  • The most plausible story surrounding St. Valentine is one not centered on Eros (passionate love) but on agape (Christian love): he was martyred for refusing to renounce his religion. (not for marrying others or his love of the jailer's daughter)



Traditions

Hundreds of years ago in England, many children dressed up as adults on Valentine's Day. They went singing from home to home. One verse they sang was:

Good morning to you, valentine;

Curl your locks as I do mine —-

Two before and three behind.

Good morning to you, valentine.

In Wales wooden love spoons were carved and given as gifts on February 14th. Hearts, keys and keyholes were favourite decorations on the spoons. The decoration meant, "You unlock my heart!"

In the Middle Ages, young men and women drew names from a bowl to see who their valentines would be. They would wear these names on their sleeves for one week. To wear your heart on your sleeve now means that it is easy for other people to know how you are feeling.



Beliefs

  • In some countries, a young woman may receive a gift of clothing from a young man. If she keeps the gift, it means she will marry him.
  • Some people used to believe that if a woman saw a robin flying overhead on Valentine's Day, it meant she would marry a sailor. If she saw a sparrow, she would marry a poor man and be very happy. If she saw a goldfinch, she would marry a millionaire.
  • A love seat is a wide chair. It was first made to seat one woman and her wide dress. Later, the love seat or courting seat had two sections, often in an S-shape. In this way, a couple could sit together — but not too closely!
  • Think of five or six names of boys or girls you might marry, As you twist the stem of an apple, recite the names until the stem comes off. You will marry the person whose name you were saying when the stem fell off.
  • Pick a dandelion that has gone to seed. Take a deep breath and blow the seeds into the wind. Count the seeds that remain on the stem. That is the number of children you will have.
  • If you cut an apple in half and count how many seeds are inside, you will also know how many children you will have.



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