Saturday, February 14, 2009

St. Valentine's Day

I am not a fan of Valentine's Day. I am, however, a fan of Saint Valentine's Day. The holiday has become so commercial-- it suckers poor men into buying overpriced flowers, chocolates, gifts, and cards, while shelling out a ton of money to eat at a fancy restaurant that has poor service and rushes you out so quickly because they're trying to get more patrons in. I don't think you really need Valentine's Day to show the one in your life that you care-- you can do this with simple, everyday gestures and actions.

So, who exactly was St. Valentine? It's not all together clear and still remains unknown. At least three different Saint Valentines are mentioned in the early list of martyrs for February 14th. One was a priest in Rome during the Roman Empire who helped persecuted Christians during the reign of Claudius II. He was later thrown in jail and beheaded. Another was a bishop of Terni, who was also beheaded during the same reign. It was also said that St. Valentine secretly married couples during a time when marriage was banned, and later wrote letters to his jailer's daughter, which is where the custom of sending cards or letters on this day comes from.

For those interested on the Catholic roots of the day, below is a blurb from

Although the mid-February holiday celebrating love and lovers remains wildly popular,the confusion over its origins led the Catholic Church, in 1969, to drop St. Valentine's Day from the Roman calendar of official, worldwide Catholic feasts. (Those highly sought-after days are reserved for saints with more clear historical record. After all, the saints are real individuals for us to imitate.) Some parishes, however, observe the feast of St. Valentine.

The roots of St. Valentine's Day lie in the ancient Roman festival of Lupercalia, which was celebrated on Feb. 15. For 800 years the Romans had dedicated this day to the god Lupercus. On Lupercalia, a young man would draw the name of a young woman in a lottery and would then keep the woman as a sexual companion for the year.

Pope Gelasius I was, understandably, less than thrilled with this custom. So he changed the lottery to have both young men and women draw the names of saints whom they would then emulate for the year (a change that no doubt disappointed a few young men). Instead of Lupercus, the patron of the feast became Valentine. For Roman men, the day continued to be an occasion to seek the affections of women, and it became a tradition to give out handwritten messages of admiration that included Valentine's name.

There was also a conventional belief in Europe during the Middle Ages that birds chose their partners in the middle of February. Thus the day was dedicated to love, and people observed it by writing love letters and sending small gifts to their beloved. Legend has it that Charles, duke of Orleans, sent the first real Valentine card to his wife in 1415, when he was imprisoned in the Tower of London. (He, however, was not beheaded, and died a half-century later of old age.)

Just a little something to think about the next time you're snacking on chocolates and conversation hearts. ;)

Enjoy Valentine's Day everyone!


1 comment:

  1. Happy valentine, im not one of those people who are anti valentine..Not because all the lovey dovey stuff tho, more like I appreciate all the gourmet chocolates :P


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