Ever wondered why lovers world wide make such a fuss about Valentines Day? February 14 is marked world wide as a day of showing love and affection to loved ones by showering them with lovely gifts ranging from candy, flowers, chocolates to cards. While others prefer to go out to restaurants to celebrate their relationship through tasty cuisines.
However, the valentine has a cloud of mystery hanging over.
It is believed that this day roots are in the ancient Roman festival of Lupercalia, a fertility celebration commemorated annually on February 13 through 15, but the rise of Christianity in Europe saw many pagan holidays being renamed and dedicated to the early Christian martyrs.
Lupercalia was no exception and was later changed from a pagan festival into a Christian feast day in 496 by Pope Gelasius I, declaring February 14 to be St. Valentine’s Day.
According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, there were at least three early Christian saints by this name. One was a priest in Rome, another a bishop in Terni and of the third St. Valentine almost nothing is known except that he died in Africa.
Strangely, all three Valentines were said to have been martyred on Feb. 14. It is however clear that the Pope intended to honor the first of the three men.
Scholars believe that this St. Valentine was a priest who lived around 270 AD in Rome an d fell out with the then Roman emperor Claudius II for holding secret marriage ceremonies of soldiers in opposition to Claudius II who had prohibited marriage for young men. During the lifetime of Valentine, Roman Empire was at a decline and had almost come to an end.
More and more capable men were required to be recruited as soldiers and officers to protect the nation so when Claudius became the emperor, he felt that married men were more emotionally attached to their families, and therefore, will not make good soldiers.
He believed that marriage made the men weak. He then forbade marriage to assure quality soldiers.
Bishop Valentine saw the trauma of young lovers who gave up all hopes of being married and he planned to go against the monarch’s orders in secrecy.
Whenever lovers thought of marrying, they went to Valentine who met them afterwards in a secret place, and joined them in the sacrament of matrimony.
But this did not remain hidden for long. It was only a matter of time before Claudius came to know of this and had him arrested.
It was said that Valentine had some saintly abilities and one of them granted him the power to heal people. While awaiting his sentence in prison, Asterius his jailer who had a blind daughter, and knew of the miraculous powers of Valentine requested him to restore the sight of his daughter.
it is believed that Valentine was able to restore her sight and as a result, a deep friendship was developed between them.
It is said that just before his execution, Valentine asked for a pen and paper from his jailer, and signed a farewell message to her “From Your Valentine,” a phrase that still lives on.
Another story has it that Valentine fell in love with the daughter of his jailer during his imprisonment. However, this story is not given much importance by historians.
No romantic elements were present in the original early biographies of either of these martyrs but by the time a Saint Valentine became linked to romance, distinctions between Valentine of Rome and Valentine of Terni were lost.
It was only during the 14th century that St. Valentine’s Day became definitively associated with love. A medieval scholar Henry Ansgar Kelly, author of “Chaucer and the Cult of Saint Valentine”, credits Chaucer as the one who first linked St. Valentine’s Day with romance.
In medieval France and England it was believed that birds mated on February 14. Hence, Chaucer used the image of birds as the symbol of lovers in poems dedicated to the day.
Despite attempts by the Christian church to sanctify the holiday, the association of Valentine’s Day with romance and courtship continued through the middle ages.