Tuesday, 9 February 2010

Valentine's Day origins

Well I''ve not blogged for a while, erm well, since before Yule really. We had a lovely time, all together, and the snow was very festive but went on a bit long though! Imbolc has been celebrated, and although it is still very very cold there are signs of new life peeking through the soil and my Hazel tree has catkins on.

Anyway after missing blogging about all that I'd thought I would find out a bit more on the origins of Valentines Day as it's always seemed a bit of an odd celebration to me and I've wondered in past years why is a saint in charge of love and stuff, this is what I found:

There are a few different variations on how Valentine's Day began, but the most common one seems to be that the term St Valentine's Day originated in 5th Century Rome as a tribute to St. Valentine, a Catholic bishop who was beaten and beheaded around AD 270 by Emperor Claudius for secretly marrying couples and refusing to give up his Christian faith.

The date of his death (February 14th), funnily enough coincided with a holiday to honor Juno. Juno was the Queen of the Roman Gods and Goddesses, she was also known as the Goddess of women and marriage. The following day, February 15th, began the Feast of Lupercalia the Roman Spring festival, held in honor of the gods Pan and Juno. This was one of the most important festivals in the Roman calendar, a festival to the gods of fertility and a celebration of sensual pleasure, a time to meet and court a prospective mate and had been going on for around eight hundred years prior to the the establishment of St Valentines Day.

As Lupercalia began about the middle of February, the pastors of the early Christian church in Rome appear to have chosen Saint Valentine's Day for the celebration of this new feast.

The young Roman boys and girls at that time lived separate lives however, one of the customs of the young people was name drawing. On the eve of the festival of Lupercalia the names of the girls were written on slips of paper and placed into a box. Each young man would draw a girl's name from the box and they would then be partners for the duration of the festival, sometimes the pairing of the couple lasted for the year.

Pope Gelasius tried to change this lottery to something deemed more morally suitable, instead of the names of young women being placed in the box, it would contain the names of saints. Men and women were allowed to draw from the box and then try to emulate the saint chosen for the rest of the year. Many of the young men were not keen on the change!

The pagan festival died out, but instead of the people trying to live the lives of saints they instead latched onto the more romantic aspect of Saint Valentine's life to replace the pagan deity Lupercus. While not immediately as popular as the more passionate pagan festival, eventually the concept of celebrating true love became known as Valentine's Day and eventually Valentine became the Patron Saint of Lovers.

Although the lottery for women had been banned by the church, the mid-February holiday in commemoration of St. Valentine was still used by Roman men to seek the affection of women. It became a tradition for the men to give the ones they admired handwritten messages of affection, containing Valentine's name.

As to why Valentine was executed: Under the rule of Emperor Claudius II Rome was involved in many bloody and unpopular campaigns. Claudius believed that married men tended to be poor soldiers as they were reluctant to leave their loves and families. As a result, Claudius canceled all marriages and engagements in Rome in the hope of building up his army again, but Valentine would secretly marry young couples that came to him. Claudius had him put to death for defying him. During the days that Valentine was imprisoned, he fell in love with the daughter of his jailer. Before he was taken to his death, he signed a farewell message to her, "From your Valentine" a phrase that has lasted through the centuries.

Cupid, another symbol of the holiday, became associated with it because he was the son of Venus, the Roman god of love and beauty.

No comments: