|We didn’t find anything vulgar or unseemly in Yahoo!’s Saint |
|Valentine of Rome or Valentine’s Day categories. But we did uncover |
|some of the myths and legends surrounding this romantic holiday.|
|The Catholic Church recognizes three different saints named|
|Valentine who were martyred on February 14, and all date from very |
|early in the church’s history. One was a priest in Rome, another was|
|the bishop of Interamna (modern-day Terni in Italy), and the third |
|died in Africa. Some suggest the first two are the same person. The |
|holiday was inspired by the bishop of Interamna or a combination of |
|the bishop and the priest of Rome.|
|Many kind, sometimes miraculous acts are attributed to St.|
|Valentine. One of the most popular legends concerns marriage. The|
|reigning Roman emperor, Claudius, was recruiting soldiers to go to |
|war, but many men didn’t wish to leave their wives or girlfriends, |
|so the emperor outlawed new marriages. Valentine defied him by|
|secretly marrying couples, which earned Valentine a prison sentence |
|and, ultimately, death. Another tale (sometimes mixed in with the|
|first one) recounts Valentine’s stay in prison, during which he|
|cured the jailer’s daughter of blindness. He fell in love with the |
|woman and sent her a final letter signed “from your Valentine.” This|
|is why lovers call each other their “valentine.” |
|As is the case with many Christian holidays, Valentine’s Day |
|probably incorporates some pagan elements. In ancient Rome, February|
|15 was the start of a major fertility festival called Lupercalia.|
|This festival was dedicated in part to Juno, the patron goddess of |
|women and marriage. During the celebration boys drew girls’ names|
|from an urn. Sometimes, these pairings led to a wedding.|
|When Christianity became the religion of the Roman Empire, the old |
|pagan festivals were ended. Many people continued to celebrate them,|
|so the Church attempted to change the pagan elements. For|
|Lupercalia, instead of drawing a future mate’s name, children drew |
|the names of saints and were supposed to emulate them for the year. |
|The day of St. Valentine’s was conveniently close to the old |
|festival day, thus the pagan celebration evolved into a Christian|
|saint’s day. Around the year 498, Pope Gelasius made it official by |
|declaring February 14 St. Valentine’s Day. |
|Valentine’s Day traditions and stories grew popular over time,|
|particularly in the Middle Ages. The chivalric idea of courtly love |
|fit well with this holiday, and noblemen and women sent love notes |
|and small gifts. By the 17th century, many people in Europe|
|celebrated the holiday. In the Victorian era, mass-produced|
|Valentine’s Day cards became available, and they’ve been a big hit |
|with romantics ever since.|
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