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Christian martyr Saint Valentine


From: Lawrence A. Parker (occti_at_TeacherArtExchange)
Date: Fri Feb 14 2003 - 08:41:40 PST

Today's Honorary Subscriber is the early Christian martyr Saint
Valentine (d. circa 259) whose February 14th feast day has become the
occasion for lovers to exchange expressions of affection. The
Valentine's Day holiday probably derives its origins from the ancient
Roman feast of Lupercalia celebrated February 15th as a spring festival,
one custom of which was the drawing of a Roman girl's name in a lotto
for the purpose of becoming the year-long sweetheart of the young man
who drew her name.
       Legend has it that the Lupercalia holiday became Valentine's Day
in honor of a priest named Valentine who is reputed to have defied the
order of Emperor Claudius II that Roman soldiers not marry or become
engaged. Against the Emperor's decree, Valentine secretly married many
young couples. He was eventually arrested, imprisoned, and put to death
on February 14th, the eve of the Lupercalia holiday. After his death,
Valentine was named a saint and the Roman spring holiday was moved from
the 15th to the 14th of February, transforming it into a Christian feast
day honoring St. Valentine.
       The Lupercalia lottery ceased being a means for pairing up young
men and women. Instead they would now draw the names of saints whom they
would then emulate for the year. For Roman men, the day continued to be
an occasion to seek the affections of women, and it became a tradition
to give out handwritten messages of admiration that included Valentine's
name. During the Middle Ages it became a conventional belief in Europe
that birds chose their partners in the middle of February, and St.
Valentine's day was again dedicated to love, and people observed it by
writing love letters and sending small gifts to their beloved.
       Legend also has it that Charles, Duke of Orleans, sent the first
real Valentine card to his wife in 1415, when he was imprisoned in the
Tower of London. Because the history of Valentine's Day as given above
is more legendary than historically authentic, the Catholic Church no
longer officially honors St. Valentine as a worldwide feast day. Many
local parishes, however, continue to celebrate the day in various ways,
and, of course, the day is widely celebrated as a non-religious
observance, much to the joy of florists, jewelers and candy makers.
       Here are some Valentine Day customs that grew up over the
       Hundreds of years ago in England, many children dressed up as
adults on Valentine's Day. They went singing from home to home. One
verse they sang was: Good morning to you, valentine;/Curl your locks as
I do mine/Two before and three behind./Good morning to you, valentine.
       In Wales wooden love spoons were carved and given as gifts on
February 14th. Hearts, keys and keyholes were favorite decorations on
the spoons. The decoration meant, "You unlock my heart!"
       In the Middle Ages, young men and women drew names from a bowl to
see who their valentines would be. They would wear these names on their
sleeves for one week. To wear your heart on your sleeve now means that
it is easy for other people to know how you are feeling.
       In some countries, a young woman may receive a gift of clothing
from a young man. If she keeps the gift, it means she will marry him.
       Some people used to believe that if a woman saw a robin flying
overhead on Valentine's Day, it meant she would marry a sailor. If she
saw a sparrow, she would marry a poor man and be very happy. If she saw
a goldfinch, she would marry a millionaire.
       A love seat is a wide chair. It was first made to seat one woman
and her wide dress. Later, the love seat or courting seat had two
sections, often in an S-shape. In this way, a couple could sit together
-- but not too closely!
       Think of five or six names of boys or girls you might marry. As
you twist the stem of an apple, recite the names until the stem comes
off. You will marry the person whose name you were saying when the stem
fell off. Pick a dandelion that has gone to seed. Take a deep breath and
blow the seeds into the wind. Count the seeds that remain on the stem.
That is the number of children you will have. If you cut an apple in
half and count how many seeds are inside, you will also know how many
children you will have.

See for "The Little Big Book of Love"
edited by edited by Lena Tabori and Natasha Tabori Fried (William Morrow
& Co, 2000, ISBN 0688174159)


Lawrence A. Parker

Philosopher and Educational Consultant



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