Greetings, Age Community.
I come this week with four lovely tales painting the stories behind St. Valentines Day. On February 14th, many of you will celebrate a holiday which is traditionally known as a day to celebrate love and friendship, but what came before the chocolates, the jewelry, the roses, and fancy dinners?
To answer this question, first we must explore its Pagan and Christian origins.
The Celebration of Lupercalia
Lupercalia, a pagan Roman holiday, was celebrated annually on February 15th (some believe it was a three day festival spanning from Feb 13-15th). The goal of the celebration was to ward off infertility by performing rituals such as animal sacrifices done by priests, covering women in the blood of the sacrifices to purify and enhance their fertility, plenty of wine drinking, dancing, matchmaking couples at the draw of a hat, and creating romantic connections which were to last for that season but often ended in life-long partnerships. Lupercalia was also a celebration used to cleanse the city and promote abundance for the upcoming year.
The Christian Celebration of St. Valentine’s Day
Lupercalia was banned by Pope Gelasius I around the 5th century due to it’s pagan origins. After banning the celebration, he replaced the holiday with Valentine’s Day to be celebrated on February 14th.
The origins of the Christian celebration of Valentines Day date back to a martyr and his support of Christian marriages. St. Valentine was a Catholic priest and doctor during the reign of Roman Emperor Claudius II Gothicus who imprisoned him for his involvement in the Catholic church. He was named a saint by the Catholic Church and assigned February 14th as is recognition day. While he is still recognized as a patron saint of love, friendship, epilepsy, and beekeepers, in 1969 he was removed from the General Roman Calendar due to the lack of information available from his life.
So how did a holiday recognizing a Catholic priest and physician turn into a holiday about love? There are several stories for this, and not one has been recognized as the true origin behind the romantic notes behind the holiday, but they are certainly heart warming stories to remember throughout this season.
A Tale of Friendship
While being imprisoned for his devotion to the Catholic Church, St. Valentine, who served as a physician and tutor for Pope Claudius’ daughter cured the little girl of her blindness. The pair developed a wonderful friendship even while Valentine was behind bars. He wrote letters to the young girl signing off as “from your Valentine”. Some believe his relationship with the girl and the miracle he created by curing her sight is the reason why the holiday is a time to recognize and celebrate miracles and true friendships and why we send our loved ones a note on the special day.
The Tale of the Newlyweds
St. Valentine was an advocate for love and the sanctity of marriage. During Pope Claudius’s reign, Claudius had banned marriage as he believed too many men were dodging the draft. Single men were the only people eligible to join Claudius’ army and his options were depleting due to the increase in marriages to avoid war. Going against the Pope’s wishes, Valentine performed marriages in secrecy to save the lives of men who did not want to go to war, or for those who were longing to be married but were banned from doing so. His defiance against the crown by performing these ceremonies is said to be on of the main catalysts leading to his imprisonment.
St. Valentine truly shaped up to be a major advocate for friendship, safety, and love.
The Tale of the Prisoner
One of the stories behind St. Valentine’s Day revolved around an imprisoned Duke with an eternal broken heart. Charles, Duke of Orleans, was imprisoned in 1415 during the battle of Agincourt after France lost to the significantly smaller English army. At the time of his imprisonment, the young man had just turned 21 and his first wife from his arranged marriage had passed during childbirth. Soon after, Charles was married off to Bonne of Armagnac while still imprisoned. While residing in the Tower of London he wrote love letters and poetry to his new wife, Bonne of Armagnac, calling her his “valentine”. Unfortunately, Charles was unable to reunite with his wife, as she passed before Charles was freed from his imprisonment, 25 years after his original capture. His letters express the love he had for Bonne even though the time spent with her was minimal. Charles’s story is yet another theory as to why we take February 14th as a day to express our feelings to our loved ones and do so through cards and small symbols of love.
The Tale of the Love Birds
Could the romantic nature of this holiday be tied back to nature itself? According to some historians and literary buffs, the answer, is yes. People across Europe noticed that February was (and is) the season for birds to fly out and find their mate. Birds announce the approach of spring time as they leave the comfort of their nests to find their true love. (Ok, maybe it’s not true love and more of a natural phenomenon but I’d like to think it’s true love).
Famous author, Geoffrey Chaucer, took note of this yearly occurrence and wrote about it in his famous work Parliament of Fowls. He claims birds fly out on St. Valentines Day to find their new mate. Although Chaucer created beautiful written works for the pleasure of his audience, some historians believe this specific poem was written for King Richard II while he was courting and negotiating his marriage to Anne of Bohemia in 1380. Receiving a love poem written by Chaucer sounds quite romantic, don’t you think?
Age Community, before I flip the page once more, I have felt inspired to share the poem I wrote for all of you. I hope you enjoy it.
Roses are red
Violets are blue
I will be back next week
to share more stories with you.
That has a nice ring to it don’t you think?
I cannot wait to share with you the treasures I have for next week, coming straight from civilizations we have yet to engage with.
Farewell for now,
As told by Grace and approved by Gyb, the cat.