Saturday, February 09, 2008

Saint Valentine's Day; A short History

Hi all, Here is some brief history of St. Valentine's Day celebrations.
Taken from many sources. Interesting at the least??

Lupercalia: A "Feverish" Festival We may owe our observance of Valentine's Day to the Roman celebration of Lupercalia, a festival of eroticism that honored Juno Februata, the goddess of "feverish" (febris) love. Annually, on the ides of February, love notes or "billets" would be drawn to partner men and women for feasting and sexual game playing.

From Sinful to Saintly? Early Christians, clearly a dour bunch, frowned on these lascivious goings-on. In an attempt to curb the erotic festivities, the Christian clergy encouraged celebrants to substitute the names of saints. Then, for the next twelve months, participants were to emulate the ideals represented by the particular saint they'd chosen. Not too surprisingly, this prudish version of Lupercalia proved unpopular, and died a quick death.

Easier to Do: Substitute Romance for Eroticism But the early Christians were anything but quitters, so it was on to Plan B: modulate the overtly sexual nature of Lupercalia by turning this "feast of the flesh" into a "ritual for romance!" This time, the Church selected a single saint to do battle the pagan goddess Juno -- St. Valentine (Valentinus). And since Valentinus had been martyred on February 14, the Church could also preempt the annual February 15 celebration of Lupercalia. The only fly in the ointment was Valentinus himself: he was a chaste man, unschooled in the art of love.

Putting the Right "Spin" on the Saint To make the chaste Saint more appealing to lovers, the Church may have "embellished" his life story a little bit. Since it happened so long ago, records no longer exist. But if it didn't happen this way, it certainly makes for a better story... According to one legend, Valentinus ignored a decree from Emperor Claudius II that forbade all marriages and betrothals. Caught in the act, Valentinus was imprisoned and sentenced to death for secretly conducting several wedding ceremonies. While imprisoned, the future Saint cured a girl (the jailer's daughter) of her blindness. The poor girl fell madly in love with Valentinus, but could not save him. On the eve of his execution, Valentinus managed to slip a parting message to the girl. The note, of course, was signed "From your Valentine."

No More Lottery Drawings Despite the efforts of the Church, Valentine's Day continued to echo Lupercalia in at least one respect - men and women, married or single, would draw lots to select a "valentine." Once paired, the couple exchanged gifts and sometimes love tokens as well. The custom of lottery drawings to select Valentines persisted well into the eighteenth century. Gradually, however, a shift took place. No longer did both parties exchange gifts; instead, gift-giving became solely the responsibility of the man! This new twist helped to finally bring an end to the random drawing of names, since many men were unhappy about giving gifts (sometimes very costly) to women who were not of their choosing. And now that individuals were free to select their own Valentine, the celebration took on a new and much more serious meaning for couples!

Valentine Cards Appear The first written valentine is usually attributed to the imprisoned Charles, Duke of Orleans. In 1415, Charles fought his lonely confinement by writing romantic verses for his wife. By the sixteenth century written valentines were so common that St. Francis de Sales, fearing for the souls of his English flock, sermonized against them. Manufactured cards, decorated with Cupids and hearts, appeared near the end of the eighteenth century. A purchased valentine became the most popular way to declare love during the early decades of the nineteenth century. Miniature works of art, the cards were usually hand painted and were often lavishly decorated with laces, silk or satin, flowers (made from the feathers of tropical birds), glass filigrees, gold-leaf or even perfumed sachets!

I Love You! (But Postage is Due...) Did you know that the current popularity of St. Valentine's Day owes much to the modern postal service? Until the mid-1800's, the cost of sending mail was far beyond the means of the average person. Even worse, the postal service demanded payment from the recipient, not the sender, of the letter! Imagine receiving a Valentine card, paying the postage due, then reading that you were "...valued beyond rubies" by your Valentine. Even more ironic... discovering that your Valentine card was from an unwelcome suitor! So, until the advent of the penny post, most valentine cards were hand delivered by the prospective lover.

St. Valentine's Day in the new Millennium... St. Valentine's Day greeting cards are still very popular (only more Christmas cards are sent), but red roses and chocolate candies now often accompany the card. And the card itself has changed quite a bit...recent developments include cards that play romantic music; let you record a romantic message; even "scratch-and-sniff" cards! New technologies offer even more ways for lovers to say "be mine!" Some of the new technologies... video-tape a steamy Valentine wish! Send a love letter via email! Send an animated eCard! All fun..and easy to do!