Are you a romantic?

If you’re married or in a relationship you may want to start doing some serious thought about finding the romantic in yourself before February 14th. That is when Valentines falls and there are some days you just need to be a bit of a brown noser and don’t forget.

So, where did this annual ‘love’ day come from?

Like most traditions which originated in the early ages, the actual origins are obscured by time and lack of definitive records. Since most legends tend to contain at least of grain of truth it appears that basis for the day originated ancient Greece and also draws from Roman times.The Greeks dedicated the period from about mid-January to mid-February to celebrate the marriage of the gods Zeus & Hera. The Romans held a festival on Feb 15 called Lupercalia to celebrate Lupercus, the god of fertility.

On that day the priests would sacrifice goats in Lupercus’ honour and after drinking wine would run through the streets holding goatskins above their heads touching any who wished to be touched. Women touched with the goatskin were believed to be then blessed with fertility and would have easy childbirth.

It is widely believed that it was pagan festivals like these that Pope Gelasis I wanted to put an end to when he declared in 496 that February 14th was to be a holiday to commemorate St. Valentine.

Who is St. Valentine?

There are several Valentines who were martyred over the years so there is some confusion over which one was actually St. Valentine. It is believed that the most likely one was Valentine, Bishop of Interamna who around 270 A.D. responded to the Roman Emporer Claudius II decree outlawing marriage by secretly marrying couples.

270 A.D. was in the waning years of the Roman Empire and raising the massive armies the empire once commanded to impose their will was becoming increasingly difficult. Claudius, who was believed to have had more than a few screws loose, believed that married men made poor soldiers and thus reasoned that if men were not allowed to marry he would get the armies he needed to be able to hold onto power.

Discovering that not only was his decree being defied, it was being defied by a Christian didn’t sit well with Claudius. He had Valentine hauled before him and demanded that not only should he obey the law but that he was to renounced his faith. Valentine responded by attempting to convert Claudius to Christianity. That didn’t make Claudius a happy camper and he had Valentine tossed into jail to await his eventual execution.

The next twist in the legend has Valentine falling in love with the jailer’s blind daughter Asterius and through their love and faith her sight was restored. This would be a necessary miracle in order for the Roman church to make Valentine a saint. Reportedly the day that he was executed Valentine signed a farewell message to Asterius with “From Your Valentine”.

Where Did the Practice of Sending Valentines Cards Come From?

When Pope Gelasius I outlawed the practice of Lupercalia and replaced it with St. Valentine’s Day in 496 Roman men started a practice of sending women they admired and wished to court handwritten greetings of affection on Feb. 14th. This was thought to have started the tradition of Valentine’s cards. (what a relief to know it wasn’t started by Hallmark)The practice of the Valentine card spread with Christianity. In the 16th Century St. Francis de Sales, Bishop of Geneva attempted to replace the cards with a practice of drawing saints names which the person drawing the name was to emulate for the next year. This effort was very short lived and not only did the practice of sending cards spread, they became more elaborate often with huge Cupids being used to decorate them.

By the late 18th century printers had started producing printed valentines and with the introduction of mail service in the early 19th century cards could now be sent anonymously. This practice led to a proliferation of rather racey verses in the otherwise staid and prudish Victorian Era. Some of the early Valentine’s cards in the US were rather elaborate lacy cards which sold between $5 to $10, a king’s ransom in those days.