The History Of Valentine's Day

The origin of St. Valentine goes back to the Middle Ages or earlier because of this, very little factual data was recorded about the man or the holiday. The History Channel has expounded on the three prevailing theories and offers a Video Presentation of its findings. One legend depicts St. Valentine as a priest who in the third century defied Claudius II’s edict of not allowing young men to marry. Claudius had ruled this to keep his army built up of single men as he didn’t feel men with families made good soldiers. As a priest, Valentine continued to marry those who sought him out.

Another theory, held strongly by the Catholic Church, is that Valentine was martyred for his role in helping Christians persecuted under the reign of Claudius II. Some historians further denote the priest healing the jailer’s daughter by restoring her sight. The origin of the phrase “From Your Valentine” is supposed to have been the thank-you note he signed and left for this young girl, on the day of his execution, who had often visited him in his cell.

Still some believe that Valentine’s Day began in contradiction to the Roman Lupercalia festival. It has been suggested this Christian holiday was created to overshadow the pagan ritual of sacrificing a goat and a dog. Overseen by two Lupercalian priests, who would smear themselves with the blood of the animals, don their skins, they led other priests and ran around waving strips of the animal skins. The village women competed for the blessing of being scourged by these priests as they believed it made them fertile and provided for easy childbirths.

Any or all of the theories probably have a basis of truth, but the record of Valentine's Day customs began much later. It was in 496 A.D. that the Catholic Church declared this Christian holiday. And while people in the Middle Ages gave greetings to one another on this holiday, they did so in singing songs or reciting poems. But the attachment of love and romance to this special day is credited to Geoffrey Chaucer and his work The Parliament of Fowles. Even the modern English translation clearly shows Chaucer’s threading love for man and God into the passages, and uses Cupid as well as St. Valentine as icons of this.

Paper Valentine's Day greetings began to be given somewhere in the 1400s. After the Renaissance Period, when the paintings of the cute little love god, Cupid, took on the angelic child appearance we know today, he became a permanent symbol for the holiday with his mythical bow and arrows. The month of February had always been about romance, from the spring mating of birds and the romantic hero St. Valentine had become, due to his acts of compassion, born of selfless love for mankind. Even the Romans held this month as a time to find that special someone.

Today, the Greeting Card Association states that over one billion cards are sent on this holiday. Compared with 2.6 billion at Christmas time, this would indicate the importance placed on the romance of St. Valentine’s Day.

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