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St Valentines Day…uncovering some of the truth!


Valentine’s Day

(This is taken from The Signs and Symbols Sourcebook, Harper Element)

The original Valentine was an amalgamation of two or three different
men, all named Valentine, and all martyred to the Christian
cause; one of them was either martyred or buried in Rome on
February 14. However, a certain amount of “spin” was necessary to
make St. Valentine fit convincingly as a replacement for the existing
pre-Christian Lupercalian excesses. A story was put about that
Valentine defied the Emperor Claudius’ decree that fighting men
should not have sexual relations in case their strength was sapped. The
Emperor was not in favour of the new religion and to be a Christian at
this time was hazardous to the health, but Valentine continued to
proselytize despite the sentence of death that hung over the heads of
anyone caught doing so. Later, he presided over illicit Christian weddings.
According to another legend, prior to his execution, he fell in love
with the jailer’s daughter and left her a note with the words “from
your Valentine” written on it. Part of the Lupercalian festivities
included the young men drawing lots for available young women; these couples
then spent time together during the festival, with sex the main agenda. The
Church invented a lottery, too, although it was a slightly tamer version.
People pulled the names of various Christian saints out of the hat, and then
attempted to emulate these worthies for the rest of the year. Understandably,
this custom failed to excite people’s imaginations as much as its saucier
forerunner and drawing lots to put couples together started again in
the fifteenth century, a sort of medieval version of speed dating,
except faster, although its intentions were supposedly more innocent
than those of the Lupercalia. Despite this, it proved very difficult
to suppress the memory of the Lupercalia, and today the Church
rarely celebrates St. Valentine. However, as a secular celebration
of love and romance Valentine’s Day is a great success. The heart,
as the major symbol of love, is seen everywhere at this time.