He lost his head for romance
Chaucer wrote in his Parliament of Foules:
"For this was sent on Seynt Valentyneis day/Whan every foul cometh ther
to choose his mate."
Valentineis Day: The name conjures up images
of hearts, candy and exchanging cards in grade school.
Why is Feb. 14 special? Who was St. Valentine?
Was it chosen by the modern greeting card
and flower industry? Actually, Feb. 14 has historical links dating back
to Roman times.
It was given preference as the day before
the Roman feast of Lupercalia, a pagan love festival. In 496, Pope Gelasius
changed Lupercalia from Feb. 15 to 14 in an attempt to stop the pagan celebration.
The church ultimately decided that there
was nothing wrong with celebrating love. It was the pagan elements that
"insulted" God, so Lupercalia was out and Saint Valentine (the patron saint
of lovers) was in.
Why is today devoted to Valentine? Depending
on the sources, a variety of interpretations exist.
One book told me that the legend actually
combines the lives of two different men named Valentine. Another book offered
that it was actually two different legends about the same man. A third
source provided the answer that there were three men named Valentine.
The person in question might have been
Saint Valentine, a Christian martyr who died in 269. He was a priest who
lived during the rule of Emperor Claudius II.
Rome at this time was involved in many
bloody and unpopular campaigns, and Claudius had trouble gathering soldiers
for his military leagues.
He believed the problem arose because Roman
men did not want to leave their loves or families. As a result, Claudius
cancelled all marriages and engagements in Rome.
Saint Valentine and Saint Marius continued
to secretly marry couples. For this deed Valentine was brought before the
Prefect of Rome and condemned to be beaten to death with clubs and then
have his head cut off.
He suffered martyrdom on Feb. 14.
History says that, while in jail, Valentine
fell in love with the jaileris blind daughter and miraculously restored
He supposedly sent her a farewell note
before his execution (she had evidently learned to read quickly) signed
"From Your Valentine."
Was this the true origin of the practice
of exchanging Valentineis Day cards?
The Roman festival of Lupercalia included
putting the girlsi names in a box and letting the boys draw them out. These
couples allegedly became paired off for the whole year.
A similar practice happened in the 14th
century, but this sweetheart (chosen by lot) was only yours for a day.
It was done to correspond with the belief that the springtime mating of
birds took place around Feb. 14.
Specially printed cards for Valentines
were common by the 1780s. Freundschaftkarten, or "friendship cards" as
they are known in Germany, are wonderful ways to tell the one you love
how you feel for $3.95.