Advertisement

It's A Gray Area: St. Valentine's Day — past and present

February 12, 2011|By James P. Gray

Have you ever wondered where the Valentine's Day celebration came from? I did, and so I did a little research, and no, unlike Mother's Day, Valentine's Day is not rumored to have been created by Hallmark Cards.

St. Valentine's Day, commonly shortened to Valentine's Day, is celebrated throughout the world, but it has its roots in Christian and ancient Roman traditions. As best as can be determined, there was a pagan fertility celebration in Roman times called Lupercalia, in honor of Lupa, the she-wolf of Rome, and Faunas, the Roman god of fertility.

On Feb. 14, which was considered to be the first day of spring, two boys would slaughter a goat for fertility and a dog for purity. Then they would dress in animal skins, and gently slap women they would encounter on the streets with strips of the animals' hides dipped in sacrificial blood. All of this was intended to promote fertility.

Advertisement

It is hard to trace the derivation of the actual beginnings of Valentine's Day because in Catholic lore there are actually three St. Valentines, and each one was martyred. One of them lived and died in Africa, and his story is unclear.

The legend of the second says that he was a popular bishop in Rome who was captured by the emperor and imprisoned simply for being a Christian. Many people requested that he be released, but the emperor saw him as a threat because it was rumored that he had cured his jailor's daughter of blindness. Therefore the emperor had him brutally executed on Feb. 14. But on the day of his execution, he sent a note to the daughter professing his love for her, and simply signed it "from your Valentine."

The last legend took place during the time of Roman Emperor Claudius II, when he decided that his soldiers who did not have wives and families were less affected by prolonged periods of absence from home than those who were married. So Claudius decided to forbid any young men from getting married. But Valentine, a Catholic priest in what is now the Italian town of Terni, thinking this to be unjust, defied Claudius and secretly continued to marry these young lovers. When Claudius discovered what was happening, he had the priest executed. He was buried, as a hero to love, on Feb. 14, 270 A.D.

Daily Pilot Articles Daily Pilot Articles
|
|
|