The 14th February is celebrated romantically as St Valentine’s Day globally, but, have you ever wondered how it came about? Well, it dates as far back as 270 AD when a priest and Emperor Claudius ll, the ruler of the time disagreed, so the legend goes. Actually, there are several myths relating to St Valentine, but the main seems to be this one.
It appears that the Emperor Claudius ll considered unmarried men to be better soldiers than those who were married. So, he outlawed marriage for young men wanting to enter the military. Valentine realised just how unjust this degree was and he secretly continued to perform marriage ceremonies. Upon these actions being discovered by Claudius, he commanded Valentine be put to death.
Another story claims Valentine’s death was due to him attempting to aid Christians to escape from the ruthless conditions in the Roman prisons. The prisoners were often tortured and forced to undergo severe beatings. It is said that Valentine fell deeply in love with the jailor’s daughter, who sometimes used to visit him, and that before his death he wrote her a farewell love letter which he signed, “from your Valentine.”
It is also told that a feast celebrated on Valentine’s Day in the middle of February is due to an effort by the Roman Catholic Church to turn the pagan population into Christians. The celebration of the festival, Lupercalia, at the ides of February, was dedicated to the Roman God of agriculture, as well as to the founders of Rome, Romulus and Remus.
The fable goes that priests would gather at a sacred cave where they believed that the Roman founders, Romulus and Remus, were cared for by a she-wolf. The priests would make a sacrifice of a goat for fertility and a dog for purification. The goat’s skin would be torn into strips and dipped in sacrificial blood. The priests would then go and gently slap the field crops and those women tending them. The women actually welcomed this torment as they believed the impact of the goat’s skins on them would serve as encouragement to conceive for that year. The story continues that later in the day, the young female population would throw their names into a big urn and the youthful men of the area would then select and pair with the name selected for that year.
Pope Gelasius in 496 AD pronounced Lupercalia a Christian feast day for 14th February. The Catholic Encyclopaedia states there were three early Christian saints called Valentine. The Roman priest, a bishop in Terni and the third unknown, except that he mas martyred somewhere in Africa. All of them ended life on the 14th February.
Valentine greetings became popular during the middle ages. The Duke of Orleans wrote them to his wife when imprisoned in the Tower of London and King Henry V had a valentine note sent to Catherine of Valois. By the middle of the 18th century, it became common for handwritten notes and tokens of affection given to or sent by most people, and printed cards were fashionable by 1900.
Valentine’s Day has now reached a commercial status with cards, flowers, in particular roses, items of jewellery and other varied gifts given to those people whose affections have won your heart, considered the norm.