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Valentine’s Day Highlights
St. Valentine's Day has roots in several different myths and legends that have come to us through the ages. Several theories surround the history of Valentine's Day.
The Love Lottery
In ancient Rome, February 14th was a holiday to honor Juno, Queen of the Roman gods and goddesses. The Romans also knew her as the goddess of women and marriage. Then, the following day, February 15th, began the Feast of Lupercalia, a pagan celebration commemorating young men's rite of passage to the god Lupercus. The celebration featured a lottery in which young men would draw the names of teenage girls from a box to escort to the festivities. The girl assigned to each young man in that manner would be his companion during the remaining year.
Christians Alter the Pagan Celebration
In an effort to do away with the pagan festival, the Pope ordered a slight change in the lottery. Instead of the names of young women, the box instead contained the names of saints. Both men and women were allowed to draw from the box, and the game directed people to emulate the ways of the saint they drew during the rest of the year. In AD 496 Pope Gelasius I declared February 14 as St. Valentine's Day.
Instead of the pagan god Lupercus, the Church looked for a suitable patron saint of love to take his place. They found an appropriate choice in Valentine, who near AD 270 had been beheaded by Emperor Claudius II.
According to church tradition St. Valentine was a priest near Rome. At that time the Roman Emperor Claudius II had issued an edict forbidding marriage.
At the time, the heyday of the Roman Empire was waning. Lack of quality administrators led to frequent civil strife. Learning declined, taxation increased, and trade slumped to a low, precarious level. And the Gauls, Slavs, Huns, Turks and Mongolians from northern Europe and Asia increased their pressure on the Empire's boundaries. It was then too large to be shielded from external aggression and internal chaos from existing forces. Thus more capable men were required to be recruited as soldiers and officers. When Claudius became emperor, he felt that married men were more emotionally attached to their families, and so would not make good soldiers. To assure quality soldiers, he banned marriage.
Valentine, a bishop, saw the trauma of young lovers, and would meet them in a secret place to join them in the sacrament of matrimony. Claudius learned of this friend to lovers and had him arrested. The emperor, impressed with the young priest's dignity and conviction, attempted to convert him to the Roman gods, to save him from execution. Valentine refused to recognize Roman gods and even attempted to convert the emperor, knowing the consequences fully.
While Valentine was in prison awaiting his fate, he came in contact with his jailor, Asterius. The jailor had a blind daughter. Asterius requested him to heal his daughter. Through his faith he miraculously restored her sight. Around the year 270, Valentine was executed. Just before his execution, he asked for a pen and paper from his jailor, and signed a farewell message to her "From Your Valentine," a phrase that lived ever after.
Valentine thus became a patron saint, and spiritual overseer of an annual festival. The festival involved young Romans offering women they admired, and wished to court, handwritten greetings of affection on February 14. These greeting cards acquired St. Valentine's name.
The Valentine's Day card spread with Christianity, and is now celebrated all over the world.
It is believed that the first true Valentine card was sent in 1415 by Charles, Duke of Orleans, to his wife. He was imprisoned in the Tower of London at the time. The card is now preserved in the British Museum.
One of the earliest popular symbols of the Valentine's Day is Cupid, the Roman god of love, who is depicted as a young boy with bow and arrow.
Cupid has long played a role in the celebrations of love and lovers. He is known as a mischievous, winged child, whose arrows would pierce the hearts of his victims causing them to fall deeply in love. In ancient Greece he was known as Eros, the young son of Aphrodite, goddess of love and beauty. To the Romans he was Cupid, and his mother Venus.
One legend tells the story of Cupid and Psyche, the mortal maiden. Venus was jealous of the beauty of Psyche and ordered Cupid to punish the mortal. But instead, Cupid fell deeply in love with her. He took her as his wife, but as a mortal she was forbidden to look at him. Psyche was happy until her sisters convinced her to look at Cupid. Cupid punished her by departing. Their lovely castle and gardens vanished with him and Psyche found herself alone in an open field
As she wandered to find her love, she came upon the temple of Venus. Wishing to destroy her, the goddess of love gave Psyche a series of tasks, each harder and dangerous than the last. For her last task Psyche was given a little box and told to take it to the underworld. She was told to get some of the beauty of Proserpine, wife of Pluto, and put it in the box.
During her trip she was given tips on avoiding the dangers of the realm of the dead, and also warned not to open the box. Temptation would overcome Psyche and she opened the box. But instead of finding beauty, she found deadly slumber.
Cupid found her lifeless on the ground. He gathered the sleep from her body and put it back in the box. Cupid forgave her, as did Venus. The gods, moved by Psyche's love for Cupid, made her a goddess.
Assorted Valentine Information
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, and 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.
Celebrating Valentine's Day
The custom of choosing a sweetheart on this date spread through Europe in the middle Ages, and then to the early American colonies. Throughout the ages, people also believed that birds picked their mates on February 14!
Probably the first greeting cards ~ handmade valentines ~ appeared in the 16th century. As early as 1800, companies began mass-producing cards. Initially these cards were hand-colored by factory workers. By the early 20th century even fancy lace and ribbon-strewn cards were created by machine.
Valentine greetings were popular as far back as the Middle Ages; written Valentines appeared after 1400 when Chaucer wrote about them.
In Great Britain, Valentine's Day began to be popularly celebrated around the seventeenth century. By the middle of the eighteenth century, it was common for friends and lovers in all social classes to exchange small tokens of affection or handwritten notes. By the end of the century, printed cards began to replace written letters due to improvements in printing technology. Ready-made cards were an easy way for people to express their emotions in a time when direct expression of one's feelings was discouraged. Cheaper postage rates also contributed to an increase in the popularity of sending Valentine's Day greetings. Americans probably began exchanging hand-made valentines in the early 1700s. In the 1840s, Esther A. Howland began to sell the first mass-produced valentines in America.
According to the Greeting Card Association, an estimated one billion valentine cards are sent each year, making Valentine's Day the second largest card-sending holiday of the year. (An estimated 2.6 billion cards are sent for Christmas.)
Women purchase approximately 85 percent of all valentines. In addition to the United States, Valentine's Day is celebrated in Canada, Mexico, the United Kingdom, France, and Australia.
Different symbols associated with love and Valentine's Day
There are many symbols that are attached with Valentine's day and with expression of love that have been used over a long period of time, and across continents.
It was formerly believed that the heart was the seat of all human emotions. Accordingly, the gifting of a heart signified the selfless act of giving everything to someone you love. Though the ancients were not aware that the heart was responsible for pumping blood though the circulatory system, yet they knew one thing for sure that the heart was the center of all feelings. This ancient belief has lingered on through the ages.
Ribbons, Laces and Frills
Ribbons and laces have been associated with love and romance since the days when a knight used to ride into a battle sporting the scarf or handkerchief presented to him by his ladylove. In the bygone times, laces were used making women's handkerchiefs. It was also usual for a lady to drop her handkerchief in the path of the man whose attention she wished to draw.
Cupid, the god of Love
In Latin, the word Cupid means "desire." Cupid is represented as a naked, chubby boy with wings and possessing a mischievous smile. He carries a bow with a quiver of arrows, which he uses to transfix the hearts of youths and maidens.
Roses - The eternal symbol of expressing Love
From time immemorial, beloveds have been compared to roses. If we juggle the letters of the word ROSE we get EROS, the Greek name for Cupid. Rose has thus been the traditional choice of lovers around the world. The color red is associated with strong emotions and below are listed sentiments expressed by different hues of rose, and color combinations:
Roses symbolize ...
Hands for love
The hands of a lady have been a favorite decoration for Valentine's Day for many years and is supposed to depict femininity. To add to its beauty, the hand is often decorated with frilly cuff and a jeweled ring on the third finger. A lady's hands were a favorite decoration that depicted femininity. Clasped hands are said to represent those of Queen Victoria and her consort, Prince Albert, the symbol of friendship between their respective countries of England and Germany.
Doves and Love Birds
It was the popular belief that birds chose their mate for the year on February 14. Since doves and pigeons mate for life, they symbolize loyalty, fidelity and love. Lovebirds, the small birds with colorful plumage, commonly found in Africa, are so called because they tend to get cozy with each other and can't survive without each other. Doves symbolize loyalty, fidelity and love.
A Puzzik is a quaint homemade Valentine, which was a sort of puzzle that the receiver had to solve. Not only did she have to decipher the message, but also to figure how to refold the paper once it was opened. The order of the verses was usually numbered, and the recipient had to twist the folds to determine what was being said.
Although it had many forms, a rebus usually was a romantic verse written in ink with certain words omitted and illustrated with a picture. Meant to be a riddle, they were not always easy to decipher.
Love knots ~ knots of love
They are made of ribbons and are traditional symbols of interminable and everlasting love.
Happy Valentine's Day!
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