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Friday, February 13, 2009

Valentine's Day Eve

Tomorrow is Valentine's Day, the day of love..... perhaps. Valentine's Day has always bothered me, but then again, I think it annoys most people. I have heard many single people say "the holiday is stupid, why should there be one day dedicated to telling your partner you love them or are happy to be with them?!" I agree and disagree with this statement. Having been single on Valentine's Day, some of the statement is just a person being bitter they don't have a date, some of it is the holiday truly does not make sense, and i think another part is guys don't always want to celebrate Valentine's Day, they just do because the girlfriend does.
The big thing that annoys me the most about Valentine's Day is there is no clear history, as with most holidays, they just sort of become tradition. There are several different theories to the origin of Valentine's Day.

Exactly who is St. Valentine? And where did this holiday come from?
The thing is the origin of Valentine's day is a huge mystery. There are several theories as to who Valentine was and where and why the holiday came to be. Originally, Valentine's Day contains vestiges of both Christian and ancient Roman tradition. Today, the Catholic Church recognizes at least three different saints named Valentine or Valentinus, all of whom were martyred, so is there a real one or not is my question.

1. 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, the result was an army of soldiers who were half hearted, homesick and missed their families, wives, lovers etc... 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. While Valentine was in jail, rumor has it, young couples he had secretly married would come to visit him in his cell and slip him notes and flowers to show their gratitude. While in prison, Valentine fell in love with the Jailer's daughter and on February 14, prolly around 270 AD, the day he was executed, passed her a note that said "From you Valentine" The truth behind the Valentine legends is murky at best, the story emphasize his appeal as a sympathetic, heroic, and, most importantly, romantic figure and by the Middle Ages, Valentine was one of the most popular saints in England and France. I mean duh France was the first to use French Letters or as we on this side of the pond call them, Condoms.

2. Another claim is the Christian church may have decided to celebrate Valentine's feast day in the middle of February in an effort to 'Christianize' celebrations of the pagan Lupercalia festival. For Those of you who don't know Lupercalia is really Lupa, the shewolfe who nursed brothers Romulus and Remus, founders of Rome. In ancient Rome, February was the official beginning of spring and was considered a time for purification. Houses were ritually cleansed by sweeping them out and then sprinkling salt and a type of wheat called spelt throughout their interiors. 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.

The festival started with the members of the Luperci, an order of Roman priests, gathering at the sacred cave where the infants Romulus and Remus were believed to have been cared for by Lupa. The priests would then sacrifice a goat, for fertility, and a dog, for purification. The priests would then then sliced the goat's hide into strips, dipped them in the sacrificial blood and took to the streets, gently slapping both women and fields of crops with the goat hide strips. The belief was that if a woman was slapped with the goat strip it would mean she would have good fertility for the coming year. Later in the day, all the young women in the city would place their names in a big urn and then the city's bachelors would each choose a name out of the urn and become paired for the year with his chosen woman, surprisingly (depending on how one feels about the whole thing) these matches often ended in marriage. Pope Gelasius declared February 14 St. Valentine's Day around 498 A.D. and 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 Valentine's Day should be a day for romance.

Valentine's Day cards are interesting as well. The earliest Valentine was a person and the church wanted people to honor a Saint, not a person. Cards have gone through many changes originally the heart motif was referred to as the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Nuns would create intricate cards and sell them for charity or give them away to people to spread and let others know Jesus love for all his children. Later, as the Valentine card developed, the heart turned to the flaming heart as a symbol of love, thus it was in reference to the love for one another, a love token if you will.
Valentine's Day Cards reflect everything that was going on at the time. The designs and people pictured wore the fashions, quotes from famous and popular writers, ideals being held at the time, all of which helps to date the cards. The oldest known valentine still in existence today was a poem written by Charles, Duke of Orleans to his wife while he was imprisoned in the Tower of London following his capture at the Battle of Agincourt. The greeting, which was written in 1415, and is part of the manuscript collection of the British Library in London, England. Several years later, it is believed that King Henry V hired a writer named John Lydgate to compose a valentine note to Catherine of Valois.
In Great Britain, Valentine's Day began to be popularly celebrated around the seventeenth century. By the middle of the eighteenth century, it was common for friends and lovers in all social classes to exchange small tokens of affection or handwritten notes. By the end of the century, printed cards began to replace written letters due to improvements in printing technology. Ready-made cards were an easy way for people to express their emotions in a time when direct expression of one's feelings was discouraged. Cheaper postage rates also contributed to an increase in the popularity of sending Valentine's Day greetings. Americans probably began exchanging hand-made valentines in the early 1700s. In the 1840s, Esther A. Howland began to sell the first mass-produced valentines in America. Valentine greetings were popular as far back as the Middle Ages (written Valentine's didn't begin to appear until after 1400). The first commercial Valentine's Day greeting cards produced in the U.S. were created in the 1840s by Esther A. Howland. Howland, known as the Mother of the Valentine, made elaborate creations with real lace, ribbons and colorful pictures known as "scrap".

So why do we celebrate Valentine's Day? i have done research and I still don't understand completely. I do find it interesting that Valentine's Day is no longer associated with the church. I think people fail to recognize that Christianity in various was, evolved from Paganism. At one point Christians were the minority and Pagans were the majority. But, I digaree.

I am looking forward to my belated Valentine's celebration with my boyfriend, i am not sure whether he wants to actually celebrate it or not, but i still look forward to being selfish and having him spend the day with just me. Oh Valentine's Day