Who was St Valentine? His popularity, at least commercially, seems strong. No one really knows who he was - or who they were. There are several legends.
One Valentine was a Christian clubbed to death on the Flaminian Way in Rome about AD 269 during the reign of the Emperor Claudius II. This emperor had forbidden marriage. He thought single men made better soldiers and he needed soldiers. Valentine conducted secret marriage ceremonies for young lovers in defiance of the emperor. This Valentine is said to have cared for persecuted Christians before his own conversion.
Another Valentine was a Bishop of Terni, taken to Rome and martyred. The accounts of both these martyrdoms are probably unreliable. So is the story that Valentine fell in love with his gaoler’s daughter and that when he went to his death he left her a note signed ‘your Valentine’. So, what’s the connection between this person or people and the celebration of romantic love associated with 14 February? Not a lot, apart from the gaoler’s daughter story.
The tradition of linking Valentine’s Day with romantic courtship and the choosing of a mate or ‘Valentine’ probably began with the pagan Roman festival of Lupercalia in mid-February. It was a day for young men to select a woman of their choice and to celebrate new life and fertility. This festival continued to be observed in Christian Rome until the fifth century when Pope Felix 3rd and later Pope Gelasius 1st tried to suppress it. Another explanation is that in the northern hemisphere 14 February occurs during the early spring when birds traditionally choose their mates, according to Chaucer and Shakespeare.
So here we are with a day that provides an oppurtunity for
- making money
- wasting money
I blame Autolycus for triggering these random thoughts. He doesn't waste any words in asking you to Please Spare a Thought Today...for the emotionally underprivileged and links to a wonderful BBC video of Misery Bear - Valentine's Day. Thanks Autolycus. Is Misery Bear's experience a convincing argument for banning the celebration?