Sunday, February 14, 2010

Researching St. Valentine's Day

I thought it would be fun to dig up some unknown facts about Saint Valentine's Day. As a kid we were told it celebrated the martyr St. Valentine who sent messages of hope and love to the early Christians from his jail cell. Here is what Wikipedia says: "Saint Valentine's Day (commonly shortened to Valentine's Day)[1][2][3] is an annual holiday held on February 14 celebrating love and affection between intimate companions.[1][3] The holiday is named after one or more early Christian martyrs named Valentine and was established by Pope Gelasius I in AD 496. ...The holiday first became associated with romantic love in the circle of Geoffrey Chaucer in the High Middle Ages, when the tradition of courtly love flourished."
And interestingly, "Numerous early Christian martyrs were named Valentine.[7] The Valentines honored on February 14 are Valentine of Rome (Valentinus presb. m. Romae) and Valentine of Terni (Valentinus ep. Interamnensis m. Romae).[8] Valentine of Rome[9] was a priest in Rome who was martyred about AD 269...Valentine of Terni[11] became bishop of Interamna (modern Terni) about AD 197 and is said to have been martyred during the persecution under Emperor Aurelian. The Catholic Encyclopedia also speaks of a third saint named Valentine who was mentioned in early martyrologies under date of February 14. He was martyred in Africa with a number of companions, but nothing more is known about him.[13] No romantic elements are present in the original early medieval biographies of either of these martyrs. By the time a Saint Valentine became linked to romance in the fourteenth century, distinctions between Valentine of Rome and Valentine of Terni were utterly lost.[14] The Early Medieval acta of either Saint Valentine were expounded briefly in Legenda Aurea.[16] According to that version, St Valentine was persecuted as a Christian and interrogated by Roman Emperor Claudius II in person. Claudius was impressed by Valentine and had a discussion with him, attempting to get him to convert to Roman paganism in order to save his life. Valentine refused and tried to convert Claudius to Christianity instead. Because of this, he was executed. Before his execution, he is reported to have performed a miracle by healing the blind daughter of his jailer. Legenda Aurea still providing no connections whatsoever with sentimental love, appropriate lore has been embroidered in modern times to portray Valentine as a priest who refused an unattested law attributed to Roman Emperor Claudius II, allegedly ordering that young men remain single. The Emperor supposedly did this to grow his army, believing that married men did not make for good soldiers. The priest Valentine, however, secretly performed marriage ceremonies for young men. When Claudius found out about this, he had Valentine arrested and thrown in jail. In an embellishment to The Golden Legend provided by American Greetings, Inc. to History.com and widely repeated, on the evening before Valentine was to be executed, he wrote the first "valentine" himself, addressed to a young girl variously identified as his beloved,[17] as the jailer's daughter whom he had befriended and healed,[18] or both. It was a note that read "From your Valentine.""av"

Still more research tells us that there are several pagan celebrations of marriage and fertility during February and it is speculated that St. Valentine's Day was a way for Christians to celebrate love and marriage incorporating old pagan celebrations into their new faith. Oh, I could spend hours digging around researching this wonderfully old and lost tradition, but I won't bore you. :) For me it is a celebration of love and friendship. So, Happy Valentine's Day my friends. I am grateful to have you in my life. Much love always.

10 comments:

L. Diane Wolfe said...

I'd be curious at one point Hallmark and chocolate took over! LOL

Nancy J. Parra said...

:)I don't know how long Hallmark has been around but I think it was in the Victorian times that chocolates and cards really flourished. Although there is a whole lot of research on how Chaucer pushed the holiday with turtledoves, etc.

Marilyn Brant said...

Nancy, this is so informative! Thanks for digging up all the research on this holiday--I was fascinated. Hope you're having a wonderful Valentine's Day!! ;)

Ashley Ladd said...

I love to research, too. I could be happy as a historian if it paid enough to live on.

Nancy J. Parra said...

Hi Marilyn, happy Valentine's Day!

Ashley, I agree. I love research, too bad it doesn't pay.

Thanks for stopping by!

Jessica said...

Fascinating! I didn't know any of that, but I'm not surprised. Alot of the Christian holidays now stemmed from the mix of paganism and Catholicism.

Jane Kennedy Sutton said...

I love learning how holidays evolve. I can't help but wonder what the original Valentine family would think of the holiday now.

Nancy J. Parra said...

Jessica, isn't research fun? I find it fascinating how much our history and traditions are shaped by the old catholic church and how it incorporated pagan beliefs.

Jane, I wonder, too what they think. How a day meant to memorialize their family member turned into a day of celebrating love. :)

Amy DeTrempe said...

Very interesting blog. I loved learning more history behind the day. Thanks for stopping by my blog.

sanjeet said...

Although there is a whole lot of research on how Chaucer pushed the holiday with turtledoves, etc
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