The Goldendale Sentinel - Headlines & History since 1879

By Amy Reeves
For the Sentinel 

Where'd that come from? Saint Valentine's Day: Holiday

 


February has long been celebrated as a month of romance. Every Feb. 14, all around the world, candy, flowers, and gifts are exchanged between loved ones, all in the name of St. Valentine. As I try to sort out the tangled web of who was this mysterious Valentine dude, where did these traditions come from, how did Cupid get involved, and why do men have such a hard time with this day, I am now in need of a box of Godiva Chocolates. I am not going to answer that last question because I do not have a PhD in psychology. Who was St. Valentine and how did he become associated with this holiday? Just like Santa, Father Christmas, or St. Nicholas, St. Valentine’s history is just as colorful. His appeal is that of a sympathetic and romantic martyr. Due to his reputation, by the Middle Ages he had become the most popular saint in England and France. Valentine was a priest who served in third century Rome. Emperor Claudius II decided that men without families made better soldiers and outlawed marriage for young men. Valentine, realizing the injustice, defied Claudius and continued performing marriages for lovers in secret. When this was discovered, Claudius ordered that Valentine be put in prison and then put to death. According to another version of the story, Valentine was most likely imprisoned and killed for attempting to help Christians escape harsh Roman prisons, where they were often beaten and tortured. Either way, the imprisoned Valentine sent the first “Valentine” greeting himself after he fell in love with a young girl, most likely a jail maid, cook, or the jailor’s daughter and signed it, “From your Valentine”—an expression that is still in use today. Valentine’s untimely demise and/or burial was around the middle of February in 270 A.D. according to legend. But traditions can be traced before St. Valentine: the pagan celebration of Lupercalia was celebrated on the ides of Feb. (the 15th), which was a fertility festival dedicated to Faunus, the Roman god of agriculture, as well as to the Roman founders Romulus and Remus. Roman priests would gather and hold a sacrifice at a sacred cave where the infants Romulus and Remus (founders of Rome) were believed to have been cared for by a she-wolf. The animal’s skin was made into strips and dipped in the sacrificial blood, then women

and crops were gently slapped with these strips to enhance fertility in the coming year. Later in the day, all the young women in the city would place their names in a big urn. The bachelors would each choose a name and become paired for the year with the chosen woman. These matches often ended in marriage. The Church, wanting to do away with pagan holidays, decided to honor Valentine and create St. Valentine’s Day as a way to celebrate love. If I had to personally choose between the two celebrations, getting flowers and chocolate is way better than being slapped with an animal hide. Bring on the chocolate! Did You Know? Approximately 150 million Valentine’s Day cards are exchanged annually, making Valentine’s Day the second most popular card-sending holiday after Christmas. Now meet Cupid: this chubby cherub has long played a role in the celebrations of love and lovers. He is known as a mischievous, winged child whose arrows who would pierce the hearts of his victims, causing them to fall deeply in love. The arrow symbolizes both the pleasure and pain of being in love. In ancient Greece he was known as Eros, the young son of Aphrodite, the goddess of love and beauty; and to the Romans he was the offspring of the Roman gods Venus and Mars. Now from a universal perspective, Earth is between Venus and Mars—maybe our planet should have been named Love. With the historical aspect done, now to tackle the last question. Guys, this is coming from a woman who has a husband, three sons, many brothers, a dad and a step-dad, so I have a little insight into the fear this holiday incites. I have seen them all have panic attacks as they wander around mumbling with the-deer-in-the-headlights look. I will make this very simple for you: 1) Box of chocolates or something sweet. 2) A flower, alive or fake doesn’t matter. 3) A card or if you are unsure of what to purchase for a card, take the receipt from the last car part you purchased and simply write I Love You on the back with a hand-drawn heart. We may seem complicated, but we are easy to please on this day. Keep it simple and from the heart; we like it better that way. So now that you have your list, go down to one of your local stores and score some brownie points this holiday!

 

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