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Valentines Day History

Valentines Day History

Valentine’s Day is celebrated in France, Australia, Denmark, Italy, Japan, Canada, Mexico, the United Kingdom, and the United States. As with most holidays that have been celebrated for centuries, there is some debate over the origin of Valentine’s Day.

Lupercalia

At the ides of February, the 15th, the Romans celebrated a fertility festival. The festival was dedicated to Faunus, the Roman god of agriculture and the Roman founders, Romulus and Remus.  Priests from the Luperci order gathered in a cave thought to be where Romulus and Remus were raised by a she-wolf or lupa. They sacrificed a goat for fertility and a dog for purification.  The goat’s hide was cut into strips and dipped into the sacrificial blood.  The strips were taken into used to slap crops in the fields and women on the streets. It was thought to make both more fertile for the coming year. Later that day young women placed their names in an urn. Bachelors would each choose a name from the urn.  He and the chosen woman would be paired for a year. The pairing either ended in marriage, or the couple would draw the next year again.

Christianity

In the early days of Christianity, some claim that the St. Valentine’s feast was held on February 14th in an attempt to Christianize the celebration of Lupercalia.  Other think that date commemorates the death of a temple priest beheaded by Emperor Claudius II in 240 A.D. for performing secret marriage ceremonies. Claudius II had made it a crime to get married because he felt single men made better soldiers.

Another version of the story says that Valentine was executed for trying to help Christians escape harsh Roman treatment in prisons.  While imprisoned he is said to have fallen in love with the jailor’s daughter. He wrote her a letter signing it “From your Valentine” so he may be credited with writing the first Valentine. Some think that this was a different person altogether and that both men were executed by Claudius II.

At the end of the 5th century, Lupercalia was outlawed for being “un-Christian” by Pope Gelasius I.  He officially declared February 14 as St. Valentine’s Day.  Since there was already confusion about the true story of St.Valentine, Gelasius just referred to him as a martyr whose acts are only known to God.

 

Kathryn

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