3rd February 2005
Every February, across the country and the world, candy, flowers, and gifts are exchanged between loved ones, all in the name of St. Valentine.
But who is this mysterious saint and why do we celebrate this holiday?
The history of Valentine's Day -- and its patron saint -- is shrouded in mystery. But we do know that February has long been a month of romance. St. Valentine's Day, as we know it today, contains vestiges of both Christian and ancient Roman tradition. So, who was Saint Valentine and how did he become associated with this ancient rite? Today, the Catholic Church recognizes at least three different saints named Valentine or Valentinus, all of whom were martyred.
History of Valentine’s Day
As early as the fourth century B.C., the Romans engaged in an annual young man's rite to passage to the God Lupercus. The names of the teenage women were placed in a box and drawn at random by adolescent men; thus, a man was assigned a woman companion for the duration of the year, after which another lottery was staged. After eight hundred years of this cruel practice, the early church fathers sought to end this practice. They found an answer in Valentine, a bishop who had been martyred some two hundred years earlier.
According to church tradition St. Valentine was a priest near Rome in about the year 270 A.D. At that time the Roman Emperor Claudius-II who had issued an edict forbidding marriage.
This was around when the heyday of Roman Empire had almost come to an end. Lack of quality administrators led to frequent civil strife. Learning declined, taxation increased, and trade slumped to a low, precarious level. And the Gauls, Slavs, Huns, Turks and Mongolians from Northern Europe and Asian increased their pressure on the empire's boundaries. The empire was grown too large to be shielded from external aggression and internal chaos with existing forces. Thus more of capable men were required to be recruited as soldiers and officers. When Claudius became the emperor, he felt that married men were more emotionally attached to their families, and thus, will not make good soldiers. So to assure quality soldiers, he banned marriage.
Valentine, a bishop, seeing the trauma of young lovers, met them in a secret place, and joined them in the sacrament of matrimony. Claudius learned of this "friend of lovers," and had him arrested. The emperor, impressed with the young priest's dignity and conviction, attempted to convert him to the roman gods, to save him from certain execution. Valentine refused to recognize Roman Gods and even attempted to convert the emperor, knowing the consequences fully. On February 24, 270, Valentine was executed.
From Your Valentine
While Valentine was in prison awaiting his fate, he came in contact with his jailor, Asterius. The jailor had a blind daughter. Asterius requested him to heal his daughter. Through his faith he miraculously restored the sight of Asterius' daughter. Just before his execution, he asked for a pen and paper from his jailor, and signed a farewell message to her "From Your Valentine," a phrase that lived ever after.
Valentine thus became a Patron Saint, and spiritual overseer of an annual festival. The festival involved young Romans offering women they admired, and wished to court, handwritten greetings of affection on February 14. The greeting cards acquired St. Valentine's name.
The Valentine's Day card spread with Christianity, and is now celebrated all over the world. Charles, duke of Orleans, sent one of the earliest cards in 1415 to his wife while he was a prisoner in the Tower of London. The card is now preserved in the British Museum.
History of Cupid – God of Love
Cupid is the most famous of Valentine symbols and everybody knows that boy armed with bow and arrows, and piercing hearts. He is known as a mischievous, winged child armed with bow and arrows. The arrows signify desires and emotions of love, and Cupid aims those arrows at Gods and Humans, causing them to fall deeply in love. Cupid has always played a role in the celebrations of love and lovers. In ancient Greece he was known as Eros, the young son of Aphrodite, the goddess of love and beauty. To the Roman's he was Cupid, and his mother was Venus.
There is a very interesting story about Cupid and His mortal Bride Psyche in Roman mythology. Venus was jealous of the beauty of Psyche, and ordered Cupid to punish the mortal. But instead, Cupid fell deeply in love with her. He took her as his wife, but as a mortal she was forbidden to look at him.
Psyche was happy until her sisters persuaded her to look at Cupid. As soon as Psyche looked at Cupid, Cupid punished her by leaving her. Their lovely castle and gardens vanished too. Psyche found herself alone in an open field with no signs of other beings or Cupid. As she wandered trying to find her love, she came upon the temple of Venus. Wishing to destroy her, the goddess of love gave Psyche a series of tasks, each harder and more dangerous then the last.
For her last task Psyche was given a little box and told to take it to the underworld. She was told to get some of the beauty of Proserpine, the wife of Pluto, and put it in the box. During her trip she was given tips on
avoiding the dangers of the realm of the dead. She was also warned not to open the box. But Temptation overcame Psyche and she opened the box. But instead of finding beauty, she found deadly slumber.
Cupid found her lifeless on the ground. He gathered the deadly sleep from her body and put it back in the box. Cupid forgave her, as did Venus. The gods, moved by Psyche's love for Cupid made her a goddess.
Today, Cupid and his arrows have become the most popular of love signs, and two hearts pierced by an arrow, Cupid’s arrow, most frequently depict love.
Valentine’s 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 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. An estimated 2.6 billion cards are sent for Christmas. Women purchase approximately 85 percent of all valentines. In addition to the United States, Valentine's Day is celebrated in Canada, Mexico, the United Kingdom, France, and Australia.
Although the Valentine greetings were popular as far back as the middle ages written Valentine's didn't begin to appear until after 1400, and the oldest known Valentine card is on display at the British Museum. Esther A. Howland created the first commercial Valentine’s Day greeting cards produced in the U.S. in the 1840s. Howland, known as the Mother of the Valentine, made elaborate creations with real lace, ribbons and colorful pictures known as "scrap".
Definitions of Love
1 a (1): strong affection for another arising out of kinship or personal ties
2: warm attachment, enthusiasm, or devotion
3 a: the object of attachment, devotion, or admiration
4 a: unselfish loyal and benevolent concern for the good of another: as (1): the fatherly concern of God for humankind (2): brotherly concern for others b: a person's adoration of God
Definitions of Valentine
1: a sweetheart chosen or complimented on Saint Valentine's Day
2 a: a gift or greeting sent or given especially to a sweetheart on Saint Valentine's Day; especially: a greeting card sent on this day b: something (as a movie or piece of writing) expressing uncritical praise or affection: Tribute
I wish a very Happy Valentine’s Day to all our readers.