Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Brief History of Valentines Day

So, I wrote a quick little history of Valentine's Day up for the Jackson Free Press. Sense it will be publish tomorrow and I got better plans for my blog for Valentines day I thought I would go ahead and post it today

It is almost impossible to write a definitive history of Valentine’s Day. Valentine's Day origins are lost. What we do know is a strange mix of religious facts and historical legends. A lot of the problem is that the holiday has evolved over the course of almost 2,000 years and there is more than one Saint Valentine. But the Catholic Church recognizes at least seven Saint Valentines.

The first Valentine was a priest in third-century Rome. He would marry young couples, even though the emperor had outlawed marriage for anyone under a specific age. When caught, he was executed by the emperor. Another Valentine was the Bishop of Interamna. He was imprisoned in Roman for helping Christians escape from Roman persecution. The legend goes he fell in love with the daughter of his jailor. His last act was to send her a letter expressing his love, signed "From Your Valentine." There is still another St. Valentine associated with February 14th. According to the Catholic Church, this Valentine was martyred in Africa, but nothing else was known about him. There are even scholars who have stated that this Valentine and one or both of the first two are the same person. It is also important to point out that in the earliest saint biographies, Valentine had nothing to do with romantic love. It wasn’t till the 14th century that writers like Geoffrey Chaucer linked Saint Valentine, springtime and romantic love.

Some have guessed that we celebrate Valentine’s Day in February to mark the date of birth or death of St. Valentine(s). Another theory is that it is a way to Christianize pagan fertility rituals. Lupercalia was observed between Feb. 13 and 15, the start of spring in the Roman calendar, as a way to avert evil spirits and purify the city, releasing health and fertility. Houses where ritually sweep out and blessed with a mixture of salt and wheat. But, Lupercalia had no romantic overtones to it, unlike the Festival of Juno Februa, which took place on February 14th. Priest would sacrifice a goat that then would be skinned. The skin was cut into strips that would be dipped in the sacrificial blood and taken into the street to gently slap woman with. To be touched by the strip was seen as a blessing of fertility for both women and crops. Later in the festival, the young women would place their names in an urn and the city bachelors would select a name out to the urn to be paired with for the festival, hopefully to end in marriage. Both rituals were outlawed by the Pope, but still practiced by the masses.

As Chaucer’s ideal of Valentine’s Day romance increased, the exchange of notes/card showed up. The popularity of the Holiday increased. The modern holiday of Valentines Day is celebrated in the United States, Canada, Mexico, France, United Kingdom and Australia .

If you are thinking that I have written this before you are right. You can read the original version here.



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