Valentines Day – The festival of love, which is celebrated on February 14 each year is an expression of what the people believed in their pagan religion to be divine love. This festival was invented more than 1700 years ago, at a time when paganism (shirk) was still prevalent among the Romans. In ancient Rome, the festival of Juno Februa was celebrated on February 13-14 and February 14th was a holiday to honour Juno. Juno was the Queen of the Roman gods and goddesses. The Romans also knew her as the goddess of women and marriage. The following day, February 15th, began the Feast of Lupercalia – a fertility celebration commemorated annually. Pope Gelasius I recast this pagan festival as a Christian feast day circa 496, declaring February 14 to be St. Valentine’s Day.
Who is St. Valentine?
Which St. Valentine this early Pope intended to honor remains a mystery: according to the Catholic Encyclopedia, there were at least three early Christian saints by that name. One was a priest in Rome, another a bishop in Interamna (modern Terni), and of a third St. Valentine almost nothing is known except that he met his end in Africa. Rather astonishingly, all three Valentines were said to have been martyred on Feb. 14.
Most scholars believe that the St. Valentine of the holiday was a priest who attracted the disfavor of Roman emperor Claudius II around 270. At this stage, the factual ends and the mythic begins. According to one legend, Claudius II had prohibited marriage for young men, claiming that bachelors made better soldiers. Valentine continued to secretly perform marriage ceremonies but was eventually apprehended by the Romans and beaten to death with clubs and was executed. Another legend has it that Valentine, imprisoned by Claudius, fell in love with the daughter of his jailer. Before he was executed, he allegedly sent her a letter signed “from your Valentine.” Probably the most plausible story surrounding St. Valentine is one not focused on eros (passionate love) but on agape (Christian love): he was martyred for refusing to renounce his religion.
In 1969, the Roman Catholic Calendar of Saints, known officially as the Roman Martyrology, was revised as part of a larger effort to pare down the number of saint days of purely legendary origin, the Church removed St. Valentine’s Day as an official holiday from its calendar.
First link to Romance:
It was not until the 14th century that this Christian feast day became definitively associated with love. According to UCLA medieval scholar Henry Ansgar Kelly, author of Chaucer and the Cult of Saint Valentine, it was Geoffrey Chaucer who first recorded association of Valentine’s Day with romance in Parlement of Foules (1381):
“For this was on seynt Volantynys day
Whan euery bryd comyth there to chese his make.”
[For this was on St. Valentine’s Day,
When every fowl cometh there to choose his mate.]
This poem was written to honor the first anniversary of the engagement of King Richard II of England to Anne of Bohemia. A treaty providing for a marriage was signed on May 2, 1381. (When they were married eight months later, he was 13 or 14. She was 14.)
[ref: Oruch, Jack B., “St. Valentine, Chaucer, and Spring in February,” Speculum, 56 (1981): 534-65. Oruch’s survey of the literature finds no association between Valentine and romance prior to Chaucer. He concludes that Chaucer is likely to be, “the original mythmaker in this instance.”
ref: Kelly, Henry Ansgar, Chaucer and the Cult of Saint Valentine (Brill Academic Publishers, 1997)
ref: Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume XV, Published 1912]
Traditions in Modern Times:
In Great Britain, Valentine’s Day began to be popularly celebrated around the seventeenth century. By the middle of the eighteenth century, it was common for friends and lovers in all social classes to exchange small tokens of affection or handwritten notes. By the end of the century, printed cards began to replace written letters due to improvements in printing technology. Ready-made cards were an easy way for people to express their emotions in a time when direct expression of one’s feelings was discouraged. Cheaper postage rates also contributed to an increase in the popularity of sending Valentine’s Day greetings. Americans probably began exchanging hand-made valentines in the early 1700s. In the 1840s, Esther A. Howland, a Mount Holyoke graduate and native of Worcester, Mass., began to sell the first mass-produced valentines in America.
According to the Greeting Card Association, an estimated one billion valentine cards are sent each year, making Valentine’s Day the second largest card-sending holiday of the year. [if one card is on average 3USD then.. well, do the maths!]