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St Valentine: The Patron of Lovers

brown wooden panel with white heart

Photo by Jamez Picard on Unsplash

Who is St Valentine?

Was he a temple priest who lived in the 1400s and beheaded by Claudius II for helping Christian couples get hitched? At the time, men were serving in the Roman army and were not allowed to get married. The emperor was sure that unmarried men were better soldiers than those who had wives. St. Valentine performed secret marriages for those who couldn’t wait.

OR

Was Valentine the Bishop of Tenri, who Claudius II martyred on the outskirts of Rome? This man Valentine became the patron saint of engaged couples and happy marriages. He also has the responsibility of protecting beekeepers and those who travel.

Or

Was Valentine, Valentina, a virgin martyred in Palestine on July 25, A.D. 308?

The Valentine we celebrate on February 14 was in prison and believed to be the first one to send a love letter to a young girl who visited him often. According to legend, he wrote a letter to her before the Roman Emporer Claudius ordered his soldiers to beat him with clubs and behead him. He signed the letter “From your Valentine.”

Why do we celebrate Valentine’s Day on February 14?

Valentines Day started by being celebrated by “pagans.” An order of Roman priests celebrated the festival of Luperci by sacrificing a goat for fertility and a dog for purification. This festival took place on February 15.

The priests removed the skin from the goats, cut them into strips, and coated them with blood. The priests chased women down the streets, slapping their backs and arms with the strips which they believed would make the young women fertile.

Another ritual was to have young unmarried women write their names on slips of paper and deposit them in an urn. The village’s available men would reach into the urn to retrieve one of the women’s names. The couple courted each other for a year, and many ended up getting married.

Christians disapproved of this pagan festival and outlawed it for being “un-Christian”. The Christians moved the festival to February 14 and declared it St. Valentine’s Day.

St. Valentines did not become a day for lovers until Chaucer wrote a poem in 1375, Parlement of Foules, referring to February 14 as the day birds and humans come together to mate.

The Parlement of Fowls
By Geoffrey Chaucer

(excerpt)

Now welcome, somer, with thy sonne softe,
That hast this wintres wedres overshake,
And driven away the longe nyghtes blake!

Saynt Valentyn, that art ful hy on-lofte,
Thus syngen smale foules for thy sake:
Now welcome, somer, with thy sonne softe,
That hast this wintres wedres overshake.

Wel han they cause for to gladen ofte,
Sith ech of hem recovered hath hys make;
Ful blissful mowe they synge when they wake:
Now welcome, somer, with thy sonne softe
That hast this wintres wedres overshake
And driven away the longe nyghtes blake!

There are more questions than answers about the actual St. Valentine.

It doesn’t matter which of these legends you believe to be true.
Valentine’s Day is a day to celebrate love and friendship.

Please send a card to a friend, give a rose to your mother/wife/girlfriend, or present them with a box of chocolates.

Don’t chase them down the street and hit them with strips of leather to make them fertile. It’s a good thing that some traditions don’t survive.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

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St Valentine: The Patron of Lovers
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