For us in the West, Valentine’s Day is the day that celebrates love.
St. Valentine has become the patron saint of lovers and on this day we traditionally exchange messages of love, send poems and simple gifts such as chocolates and flowers to our beloved. Traditionally, these are sent anonomously – ‘From Your Valentine’ – which is thought to have come from the farewell note sent from St. Valentine to his gaoler’s daughter just before he was put to death. In the United States, Miss Esther Howland is given credit for sending the first valentine cards. Commercial valentines were introduced in the 1800’s and now the date is very commercialised. The colour Red, Roses and Hearts are the symbols tradtionally associated with this day. Read below for the full history of St. Valentine’s Day.

Valentine’s Day was a festival of the Roman Empire. In ancient Rome, February 14th was a holiday to honour Juno, the Queen of the Roman Gods and Goddesses. The Romans also knew her as the Goddess of women and marriage. The following day, February 15th, the Feast of Lupercalia began.

Young men and women lived strictly separate lives. However, one of the customs for young people was name drawing. On the eve of the festival of Lupercalia the names of Roman girls were written on slips of paper and placed into jars. Each young man would draw a girl’s name from the jar and would then be partners for the duration of the festival with the girl whom he picked. Sometimes the pairing of the children lasted an entire year, and often, they would fall in love and would later marry.

Under the rule of Emperor Claudius II, Rome was involved in many bloody and unpopular campaigns. Claudius the Cruel encountered difficulty in getting soldiers to join his military leagues. He believed the reason was that roman men did not want to leave their loved ones or families. As a result, Claudius cancelled all marriages and engagements in Rome. Saint Valentine was a priest in Rome at this time and he and Saint Marius aided Christian martyrs and secretly married couples. Saint Valentine was apprehended and dragged before the Prefect of Rome, who condemned him to be beaten to death with clubs and to have his head cut off. He suffered martyrdom on the 14th day of February, about the year 270. At that time, there was an ancient custom in Rome to celebrate the Feast of Lupercalia, in February, in honour of a heathen god.

On this occasion, amidst a variety of pagan ceremonies, the names of young women were placed in a box, from which they were drawn by the men as chance directed. The pastors of the early Christian Church in Rome endeavoured to do away with the pagan element in these feasts by substituting the names of saints for those of maidens. As the Lupercalia began about the middle of February, the pastors appear to have chosen Saint Valentine’s Day for the celebration of this new feast. The custom of young men choosing maidens for valentines, or saints as patrons for the coming year, arose in this way.

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This entry was posted on Tuesday, February 14th, 2012 at 2:39 am and is filed under days of significance, Europe, General, North America, social practices . You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

One Response to “ Happy Valentine’s Day ”

  1. Phillip says:

    Here’s the Indian version.

    The Gujeratis (Patels) are notorious for treating their wives badly. One day one Patel wife had had enough, and she beat up he husband with the rolling pin (Velan). It happened to be 14th February.

    When other Patel women heard about it they copied her, and on the anniversary of her first reverse beating she (and other Patel wives) celebrate by beating up their husbands again.

    The husbands decided to avoid future beatings on 14th February by giving their wives chocolates and flowers on what had become known as Velan Time Day.

    When the practice spread to Britain, the name was anglicised to Valentine’s Day.

    So now you know.