How did Valentine’s Day begin?

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Valentine’s Day

Everyone knows it as the day one chooses to see their one and only love (and in some cases their many “only” loves), but where did this tradition come from? Who on earth is this St. Valentine guy anyway?

The beginnings, acording to Belarussian oral tradition, states that the original Saint valentine was spurned by the female he had chosen to court. Anguished, he cut out his own heart and sent it, still beating to her, as a testimony of his undying love. Now call me crazy, but if you cut out your heart, I don’t think “undying” would be an apt word for your love.

So what is the significance of February the 14th? Why do we choo to celebrate love on that day. The answer comes from the early days of the Christian Church (yes St. Valentine’s day was originally a religious celebration, I would have guessed the “saint” gave that away). The early Catholic church celebrated certains days as “Saint Days”, dedicated to one saint of the other. Two saints were honoured yearly on February the 14th: Valentine of Rome and Valentine of Terni. Yes it seems Valentine was a pretty common name back int hose days, the Early Church had no less than eleven saints named Valentine. In those quaint, early days of the celebration of St. Valentine’s day, no mention was made of love. It was strictly a festival to homour deceased saints in the way they thought one should be honoured.

Now comes the shroud of time to mess things up (as it usually does). From the time of the early Catholic church, in order to make holidays more acceptable to the adoptive Roman nation, the emperor Constantine linked certain Christian holidays with other Pagan holidays to make a hybrid of the two, and thus Roman Catholicism was born. From a bystander’s standpoint, it was a pretty good idea, because it allowed the religion to catch on to already established holidays and feast days. One such day is Lupercalia. Lupercalia was observed yearly by the Romans as a festival of Fertility (no romance yet sports fans) between the dates February 13th and February 15th. Even though experts theorize the link between Lupercalia and St. Valentine’s day, no hard evidence has been able to relate the two.

So when and how did this holiday become Romanticized? Obviously the death of a saint (even one who comitted suicide in the name of love) isn’t enough of a push to cause such a massive change to an established feast day. The answer to this lies in one man: Chaucer. Chaucer is the man that is credited with starting the tradition of romantic poems to be written or sent on Valentine’s Day. From his cue, the French established a “Court of Love” in Paris in 1400 (on Valentine’s day, what a coincidence) to deal with matters of betrayal, contracts and violence upon women. In order to be chosen as a judge for this court, one simply need submit to a poetry reading in front of a panel of women who ran the court (beacuse we all know how great judges come from great poets).

And so my friends, we find ourselves facing another Valentine’s day. A day when people go out of their way to make their loved ones feel more loved. A day when single people worldwide bear the heavy heart of watching friends leave them because they’ve found “that special someone” to spend the day with. Valentine’s Day, from Celebration of saint, to a mockery of the word we call “love”.


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