by: RHONDA COSTA-LANDERS
The debate about romance and Valentine’s Day has raged over the ages. Some experts state the holiday originated with St. Valentine, a Roman who was martyred for refusing to give up Christianity.
But actually, the history of Valentine’s Day is filled with strife, war and death.
Others believe the Romans had a mid-February custom in which boys drew girls’ names in honor of the sex and fertility goddess, Februata Juno. Pastors “baptized” it by substituting the name of St. Valentine to suppress the practice.
Still others, maintain the custom of sending valentines stems from the belief that birds begin to pair on that date. By 1477, the English associated lovers with the feast of Valentine because on that day “every bird chooses his mate.” People began writing love letters to their valentine on this day.
Other romance traditions attached to the feast including pinning bay leaves to your pillow on Valentine’s eve so you will see your future mate that night in your dreams. February 14th became the date for exchanging love messages, and Valentine became the patron saint of lovers. The date was marked by sending poems and simple gifts such as flowers.
In ancient Rome, February 14th was a holiday to honor Jun, queen of the Roman deities. She was also the goddess of women and marriage.
Under the rule of Emperor Claudius II, Rome was involved in many unpopular campaigns. Claudis the Cruel was having a very difficult time getting soldiers to join his leagues. He believed that the reason was that the men did not want to leave their loves or their families. As a result, he cancelled all marriages and engagements in Rome.
St. Valentine was a priest at Rome in the days of Claudius II. He aided the Christian martyrs and secretly married couples who continued to present themselves to him. He was finally discovered in this defiance and sentenced to death by stoning and then beheaded. During the days that Valentine was imprisoned, he fell in love with the blind daughter of his jailer. His love for her, and his great faith, managed to miraculously heal her from her blindness before his death.
He earned Sainthood. In 496 A.D., Pope Gelasius set aside February 14th to honor St. Valentine.
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