For the first time in I can’t remember how long, I am not home for Valentines Day. In past years my husband and I always took the day off and went skiing together at Smuggler’s Notch, because it is where we began our romance. He would ski with me and I would do my best to ski faster. It was a fantastic way to celebrate this “couple’s holiday.”
I have never been much of a Valentine’s person. Don’t get me wrong, I like the romance of it and what the day represents, but to spend a large amount of money for roses on the most expensive day of the year seems a waste of money. Some might say my husband lucked out (of course I think that, too!). But let’s learn a bit about the history of this lovers’ day. Who was Saint Valentine, and how did he become associated with this ancient rite?
Origins of Valentine’s Day: A Pagan Festival in February
While some believe that Valentine’s Day is celebrated in the middle of February to commemorate the anniversary of Valentine’s death or burial, which probably occurred around A.D. 270, others claim that the Christian church may have decided to place St. Valentine’s feast day in the middle of February in an effort to “Christianize” the pagan celebration of Lupercalia. Celebrated at the Ides of February, or February 15, Lupercalia 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 a 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 sacrifice a goat, for fertility, and a dog, for purification. They would then strip the goat’s hide into strips, dip them into the sacrificial blood and take to the streets, gently slapping both women and crop fields with the goat hide.
Far from being fearful, Roman women welcomed the touch of the hides because it was believed to make them more fertile in the coming year. Later in the day, according to legend, all the young women in the city would place their names in a big urn. The city’s bachelors would each choose a name and become paired for the year with his chosen woman. These matches often ended in marriage.
The Catholic Church recognizes at least three different saints named Valentine or Valentinus, all of whom were martyred. 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. 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 him put to death.
Other stories suggest that Valentine may have been killed for attempting to help Christians escape harsh Roman prisons, where they were often beaten and tortured. According to one legend, an imprisoned Valentine actually sent the first “valentine” greeting himself after he fell in love with a young girl, possibly his jailor’s daughter, who visited him during his confinement. Before his death, it is alleged that he wrote her a letter signed “From your Valentine,” an expression that is still in use today.
Although the truth behind the Valentine legends is murky, the stories all emphasize his appeal as a sympathetic, heroic and, most importantly, romantic figure. By the Middle Ages, perhaps thanks to this reputation, Valentine would become one of the most popular saints in England and France.
Well, alright then, someone was either killed or slapped with the raw meat. OKAY. I think we have improved this day for sure! I would much rather my husband get “slapped” with a large debit card bill then either of the above!
What I do like about it is that it is a special day set aside for romance. Unfortunately, this year I am away at a real estate conference and unfortunately not with my family, and most importantly I am not with my husband. I did manage to remember to mail my daughter and husband Valentine’s Day cards before I left and they will think of me for this!
So remember, it is about recognizing the loved ones in our lives, and it doesn’t have to cost a lot of money.
Without further ado:
Happy Valentines Day!