Tuesday, February 14, 2012

The History of Valentine's Day

Today is Valentine’s day and couples are rushing to get last minute gifts, children have little parties and pass out those funny little cartoon cards, christened with the name of ‘Valentines’ that aren’t much different than the ones I received in school. It’s officially a mini holiday, at least here in the US, and a big money day for retailers. It’s literally ‘Red Tuesday’. If you love chocolate, this is your day!
So where did the whole thing start? I love history and went in search of St. Valentine’s Day.
Valentine’s became associated with romantic love during the High Middle Ages in the court of scholar and poet Geoffrey Chaucer. It was the time of chivalry and knights, creating a day of love and romance seemed to fit right into the times. Through his friends, poetry and parties, romantic love became associated with St. Valentine's Day.
Who was the original St. Valentines? No one really knows because there were several. One does standout as possibly the martyr for Valentine’s day, St. Valentine of Rome. He was martyred in AD269 and is buried in the Via Flaminia, but he’s not the only Valentine buried there, yet another one, who was also martyred is also buried in the Via Flaminia. And there is a third one. This St. Valentine died in Africa, and was also martyred. So which one is the Valentine of fame? No one is really sure.
All these saints were said to have either died on February 14th, or buried on the date, which is why it was chosen as the official feast day. 
In 1969, St. Valentine was removed from the feast day of February 14th, because the Vatican couldn’t figure out which Valentine was the famed Valentine, and they admitted they didn’t know anything about any of them.  So sadly St. Valentine’s was removed officially after so many centuries from the Roman Catholic Calendar of Saints. But that certainly didn’t stop anyone from still celebrating the day. In Malta it is a big celebration, because the small island claims to have his relics and bones, as does Rome and Ireland. St. Valentine it seems is spread out all over the world spreading the love. Since there was three, there seemed to be enough to go around. Many traditional Catholics, as Catholics often do, ignored the Pope’s order to remove Valentine from the saints, and still celebrate it as a feast day. As for the world? As a whole the order was ignored, just go into any specialty store. I don't remember Valentine's Day so much as skipping a beat after it was officially removed from the calendar.  
So out of this where did the legend come from? No one really knows, but there is the old legend of St. Valentine who was persecuted as a Christian and was brought before the Roman Emperor Claudius II. The two men tried to convert each other to their particular faiths. The problem, Claudius, had the power and Valentine didn’t. So when Valentine refused to convert to the old Roman pagan faith, he was jailed. It is said before he was executed, he healed the jailer’s daughter’s blindness.
Where did romantic love come out this depressing story? Claudius was trying to grow a fighting machine army. The problem, he didn’t believe married men made good soldiers, so he passed a law forbidding young men from marrying. Legend has it, that Valentine secretly preformed marriages for the soldiers, which got him in trouble and dragged before the Emperor. The night before his execution, Valentine wrote the newly healed jailer’s daughter a note, he addressed it to his, beloved, and signed it, From Your Valentine.

Happy Valentine's Day Everyone, Lee 

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