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History of Valentines Day


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 priest.
- 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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