February 14 is a special date in the world’s history, reputedly named after a Saint Valentine, a Christian martyr, and dates back to the 5th century. However, the origins predate the Christian Roman holiday of Lupercalia which celebrated fertility. When you think about it, Valentine’s Day is still celebrating fertility, plus a bunch of roses (and hopefully condoms). It was Pope Gelasius I who turned this pagan festival into a Christian feast day in 496 BC (while waiting for the condoms to arrive).
The most popular reason for St. Valentine’s martyrdom was that Claudius II had prohibited marriage for young men, claiming that bachelors made better soldiers. Valentine continued to secretly perform marriage ceremonies but was eventually apprehended by the Romans and put to death, if, true this was not the best way to celebrate St. Valentine’s Day.
Another legend has it that Valentine, imprisoned by Claudius, fell in love with the daughter of his jailer. Before he was executed, he allegedly sent her a card signed “from your Valentine” (and not bought at the card shop). Unfortunately, the Catholic Church divorced itself from St. Valentine in 1969, when the Church revised its liturgical calendar, removing the feast days of saints whose historical origins were questionable. St. Valentine was one of those given the chop by the hierarchy. But, whether or not ‘Mother Church’ is ready to celebrate St. Valentine’s Day, people all over the world certainly are. (And of course, greeting cards are a very lucrative business, to say nothing of the chocolates and roses.)
Some countries celebrate St. Valentine’s Day anonymously. When you receive a card it means somebody likes you – now you have to go and work out just whom. However, in Thailand the celebration is used as an expression of love from your partner.
Happy Valentine’s Day to all of you.