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Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Valentine's Day History

Valentine's Day History

* St. Valentine's Day, as we know it today, contains vestiges of both Christian and ancient Roman tradition.

*One legend contends that Valentine was a priest who served during the third century in Rome. When Emperor Claudius II decided that single men made better soldiers than those with wives and families, he outlawed marriage for young men -- his crop of potential soldiers. Valentine, realizing the injustice of the decree, defied Claudius and continued to perform marriages for young lovers in secret. When Valentine's actions were discovered, Claudius ordered that he be put to death.

* Valentine's Day is not a pagan holiday. There was a popular festival called Lupercalia, which was a pagan festival. Valentine's Day was an effort to commemorate the anniversary of Valentine's death.

* Lupercalia which began at the ides of February, February 15, was a fertility festival dedicated to Faunus, the Roman god of agriculture, as well as to the Roman founders Romulus and Remus.To begin the festival, members of the Luperci, an order of Roman priests, would gather at the sacred cave where the infants Romulus and Remus, the founders of Rome, were believed to have been cared for by a she-wolf or lupa. The priests would then sacrifice a goat, for fertility, and a dog, for purification.

* Valentine's Day is not pagan, Lupercalia is.

* The oldest Valentine card is on display at a British Museum.

* In the 1840s, Ester A. Howland began to sell mass-produced Valentines in the U.S.

*Rome's bachelors would then each choose a name out of the urn and become paired for the year with his chosen woman. These matches often ended in marriage. Pope Gelasius declared February 14 St. Valentine's Day around 498 A.D. The Roman 'lottery' system for romantic pairing was deemed un-Christian and outlawed. Later, during the Middle Ages, it was commonly believed in France and England that February 14 was the beginning of birds' mating season, which added to the idea that the middle of February -- Valentine's Day -- should be a day for romance.

Source: The History Channel's Website

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by Penn Peroud