History of Valentines
Valentine's Day has been link as a day for
love and romance where lovers exchange presents and spend
the day together. This source of this day is believed to
be tracked from both Christian and Roman tradition.
February might not be considered Spring for many of us today,
especially in certain areas of the US where there is still snow
on the ground. But for the Romans this Lupercalia on the 14 and
the Valentine's Day on the 15th got blended into one day and occurred
7 weeks after the Winter Soltice, marking the progression from
Winter into Spring. In the Middle Ages it was felt that birds
chose their mates on February 14. So February 14th has been considered
the official mating day for centuries.
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Italy also had another Spring festival during the Middle
Ages in which young singles gathered in the gardens to listen
to love poetry and romantic music. Afterward they paired
off and strolled through the trees and flowers etc. In France
this pairing-off custom went on for a while, but it ended
up causing a lot of jealousies and became more trouble than
it was worth and was dropped. But in England the custom
of young men drawing names for "Valentines" or
sweethearts remained for centuries even after the Roman
occupation ended. The young men in England would write down
all the names of the young women on pieces of paper and
then roll them up tightly and put them in a bowl. The young
men (blindfolded) would take turns drawn a name from the
bowl. The girl's name that he drew meant that she would
be his "valentine" for the next year.
The Catholic Church recognised 3 different saints by the
name of Valentine all of whom were martyred (According to
the Catholic Encyclopedia 1908). The 3 of them are
- a priest in Rome who suffered martyrdom in the second
half of the 3rd century and was buried on the Via Flaminia.
- a bishop of Interamna (modern Terni) also suffered martyrdom
in the second half of the 3rd century and was also buried
on the Via Flaminia, but in a different location than the
- a martyr in North Africa, about whom little else is known.
According to legend in the 3rd century after Christ, the Emperor
Claudius II did not want any of his soldiers falling in love and
marrying because he felt women and families distracted the soldier's
from their duty to him.. Valentine, realizing the injustice of
the decree, defied Claudius and continued to perform marriages
for young lovers in secret. When Valentine's actions were discovered,
Claudius ordered that he be put to death.
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It was also rumoured that Valentine actually sent the first 'valentine'
greeting himself. While Valentine was in prison awaiting his fate,
he came in contact with his jailor, Asterius. The jailor had a
blind daughter. Asterius requested him to heal his daughter. Through
his faith he miraculously restored the sight of Asterius' daughter.
Just before his execution, he asked for a pen and paper from his
jailor, and signed a farewell message to her "From Your Valentine,"
a phrase that lived ever after. Although the truth behind the
Valentine legends is murky, the stories certainly emphasize his
appeal as a sympathetic, heroic, and, most importantly, romantic
figure. It's no surprise that by the Middle Ages, Valentine was
one of the most popular saints in England and France.
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