IT’S the day the romantics express their love, and clandestine admirers breach their introverted-selves to declare their feelings for one another.
But Valentine’s Day, as it has become known, predates the Christian Saint Valentine, and goes back to ancient Roman times and the feast of Lupercalia, a raucous fertility festival celebrated in mid-January. Later the Christian Church chose mid-February for the festival, naming it after St Valentine in order the Christianise the festival.
Who was St Valentine? There are several versions of the story and several Christian clerics who were named Valentine. The most likely candidate is the third-century Valentine of Terni, a Roman priest who was arrested on the orders of Emperor Claudius Gothicus (Claudius II) for performing marriage ceremonies for young Christian couples. Gothicus had decreed that young single men fought harder and were not burdened with thoughts of how their wives or children might survive should they be killed on the battlefield.
Valentine was imprisoned and tortured and eventually beheaded on the outskirts of Rome.
In the fifth-century Pope Gelasius decreed that St Valentine’s Day would be celebrated on February 14, and so it has remained to this day.
Yet it was as late as the 13th century that the festival became associated with romantic love and February 14 was generally believed to be the beginning of the bird mating season. Valentine’s Day greetings became popular in the 15th century and, in England in the 17th century, cards were created and exchanged between courting couples. This tradition was quickly adopted throughout the Christian world and the USA began printing mass-produced cards in the 1840s.
Today an estimated 1 billion Valentine’s Day cards are sent throughout the world, second only to Christmas cards in terms of numbers.
With love in the air local businesses are geared up to ensure that it is memorable for all couples. Make sure not to miss out this Valentine’s Day; a day to celebrate love as well as friendship.
See this week’s Talk of the Town for all the specials available.