14th February is Valentine’s Day, the International Day of Lovers. Human love-birds can be seen hanging around here and there clinging to each other, gifting each other presents and exchanging teenage vows of love.
The day derives its name from Saint Valentine, who associated the current-day connotation with this date. What’s more is that St. Valentine was no one person, but two or more Saints by this name. Also, 14th February, as a commemoratory date for lovers wasn’t started by St. Valentine but existed even before him.
What, why, how and where – Read ahead.
Deriving From A Pagan Festival:
The day was initially celebrated as an ancient pagan Roman festival called Lupercalia. It was a fertility festival dedicated to the Roman god of agriculture Faunus, and the founders of Rome – Romulus and Remus.
A group of priests, called Luperci, assemble around a sacred cave, where Romulus and Remus were supposedly saved by a she-wolf. The Luperci then sacrifice a dog for purification and a goat for fertility.
The skin of the dead goat was then cut into strips, dipped in the sacrificial blood and were used to slap women and crops, believing that the ‘ritual’ would increase women’s fertility. Moreover, instead of running-for-the hills at this insanity, Roman women bought that crap and actually stood in line, ready to be slapped so as to have their fertility ‘improved’.
Later that year, all the unmarried and young women put their names in an urn and the bachelors of the city would randomly pick out a name, and they would be paired (and procreate, of course!) for the year. These unions often culminated in marriages.
By the end of the 5th century A.D., Christianity was coming up in Rome and Pope Gelacius declared the ceremony as “Un-Christian” and banned it and declared the date as St. Valentine’s Day.
Who Were The St. Valentines?
Christianity and its growing domination in Rome weren’t warmly accepted by the rulers there.
Who was Valentine, and whether or not he was one person – is still a debatable issue. What we know for sure is that two Valentines were executed by Emperor Claudius II. The third Valentine was arranging marriages when they were officially banned by their Emperor (believing that married men didn’t make good soldiers).
So, attaching a martyr image to the previous Valentines, The Church probably decided to name the 14th Of February as ‘Valentine’s Day’ in their honour. Also possible is that, due to the daredevilry of the third Valentine in tying marital knots, he was associated with the idea of romance and unions, thus giving that shape to the 14th of February.
Bringing In The Romantic Aspect:
It was only in the Middle Ages that the traditional romantic aspect began to be associated with this day. Middle of February was believed to be the mating season of birds in France and Italy. So, since this day fell mostly in the middle of the month, it was agreed that it would be associated with ‘love’.
Famous poets like William Shakespeare and Geoffrey Chaucer in their works also contributed towards romanticising the 14th of February.
By the late 18th century, print culture was booming, and paper being cheap, lovers sent letters and notes to each other in hoards.
Well, whatever 14th February might’ve turned into right now, we know now where and how it all began. How romantic was whipping women for fertility or valorising people who had nothing to do with love?
Take a moment and think; how much sense does the entire ‘Happy Valentine’s Day’ (and Rose Day, Promise Day etc.) make!
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