About Valentine's Day
On February 14th of each year, lovers celebrate their love on
Valentine's Day. This is the day that lovers exchange gifts and
affection to "prove" their devotion to each other.
Stores stock candy, stuffed animals and flowers for husbands (the
smart ones, anyway) and boyfriends to bring home to their wives and
girlfriends. In a twist that I always found interesting, school
children purchase packs of cards to pass out in class to all of the
other class members.
This holiday originated (most likely) in the early days of Rome. Back
in those wild old days, fierce wolves and other animals wandered in
the woods near Rome. The Romans asked Lupercus to keep the wolves
away from their city. Thus was born the festival of Lupercalia on
An interesting custom was called name drawing. On the eve of
Lupercalia the names of Roman girls were written down and placed into
jars. Each single young man drew a slip - the girl whose name was on
the slip then became his sweetheart for the rest of the year.
Thus February 15th became known as Cupid's day, the son of Venus who
was the Roman goddess of love. Cupid was the mischievous child who
shot special arrows into people to make them fall in love. Cupid's
origins go much earlier to ancient Greece, where he was named Eros
and his mother Aphrodite.
The day is believed to have been named after Bishop Valentine, who
was a priest in Rome when that city was ruled by Claudius the Cruel
(Claudius II, not the same Claudius featured in I Claudius). Claudius
had forbidden Christian conversions and marriages. The Bishop refused
to worship the Roman gods and continued his religious duties in
secret. He was imprisoned, but even so managed to convert a number of
prisoners to Christianity.
While the bishop was imprisoned he befriended the jailer's daughter.
Because the bishop would not convert to the Roman deities, he was
executed (beheaded). This happened to be February 14th. On that day,
he wrote a note to the jailors daughter, signing it "From Your
Valentine". Valentine was later declared a Saint to honor his
In AD 496, Pope Gelasius outlawed the Pagan Lupercalia festival. He
moved the holiday to February 14th and chose the martyred Valentine
as the patron saint. Although the pagan (Roman) celebration faded
into obscurity, the people simply transferred many of the icons and
figures from it to the new holiday. Thus Valentine's day is a mixture
of Pagan and Christian traditions, similar to Christmas and other
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