Saint Valentine’s Day is one of the most famous public days, recognised from all over the world. It falls every year on the same date, the 14th of every February since 496 A.D.
There are many saints named Valentine but two are the best known: San Valentino from Terni, born in 176 A.C. He protected lovers, guided them towards marriage and encouraged them to give birth to children. Religious literature describes the saint as a healer of epileptics and a defender of love stories. Especially if they are unhappy.
The second Valentino, on the other hand, would have died in Rome on 14 February 274 A.C., beheaded. Some sources identify this Valentino with the bishop of Terni himself. For others, a more plausible hypothesis, he would be another Christian martyr; for still others, this second Valentino would never have existed.
Valentino secretly organised numerous weddings, explicitly forbidden by the Emperor Claudius.
The straw that broke the camel’s back, according to stories that mix history and legend, was the celebration of the wedding between the christian Serapia and the pagan roman legionary Sabino, which Valentino officiated because the young woman was sick and about to die and Sabino was not he wanted to leave her.
The couple died together during the wedding ceremony, while Valentino was sentenced to death.
To explain how the myth of St. Valentine, patron saint of lovers, was born, however, we must wait until 496, the year in which Pope Gelasius I, proclaimed the bishop of Terni a holy martyr and decided to exploit its fame to counter an increasingly widespread pagan practice: the lupercal rites, in use by Greeks, Italics and Romans.
They took place on February 15 in honour of the greek gods Pan, Fauno and Luperco, and were linked to fertility: they consisted of the sacrifice of animals and the soiling of the participants – naked women and men – with their blood.
These rites were celebrated on February 15 and included wild celebrations, openly in contrast with the morality and idea of love of Christians.
The story tells that having become too horrid and licentious, they were forbidden by Augustus and then suppressed by Gelasius in 494. The Church Christianised that pagan rite of fertility anticipating it to February 14, attributing to the martyr of Terni the ability to protect engaged couples and lovers.
One thing seems certain: in the centuries immediately following his death, Valentino’s popularity faded like that of all martyrs, but when the persecutions of Christians ended and in subsequent eras, he re-emerged widely and not only in Italy, but also in the United Kingdom and other various part of the world.
Good morrow! ‘
Tis St. Valentine’s Day
All in the morning betime,
And I a maid at your window,
To be your valentine! –
She recited Ophelia in the famous Act IV of Hamlet, a sign of a tradition strongly rooted in English culture.
In fact, since the Middle Ages, February 14th in England was the day dedicated to lovers. Man used to give his beloved a gift as a token of her love for her, a choice that usually fell on a pair of gloves. In East Anglia (Norwich) it was customary to knock on the sweetheart’s door, leaving a package in front of her and then run away: every now and then it could be a nice gift, every now and then a joke!
From the seventeenth century, the tradition was consolidated and the first Valentines began to be printed, the typical greeting cards complete with little angels in love and romantic phrases. The rigid English upbringing did not look favourably on this custom and, to escape the unwanted attention of the girls’ parents, young lovers delivered the Valentines anonymously, hiding the most secret messages of love in special secret pockets.
Valentine’s Day is a well-rooted holiday in England, which even nobles and royalty did not escape. Even today, the British Library in London still preserves the letters sent by Charles D ‘Orleans (15th century), a prisoner in the Tower of London, to her beloved wife, calling her “Ma tres doulce Valentinèè”.
What happened instead when love was yet to arrive? Girls of marriageable age in 18th century England used to lay 5 bay leaves sprinkled with rose water on their pillows on Valentine’s Eve. Before going to bed the women recited a prayer: “Happy Valentine, be generous with me and allow me to see my true love in a dream”. If the spell had an effect, the figure of the lover would magically appear in a dream!
But it does not end here because another tradition has it that young women looking for husbands looked out the window on the morning of February 14 waving their handkerchiefs at passers-by: the first unmarried man to see him, according to tradition, had a good chance to apply as groom.
And what about the most undecided girls instead? These wrote the names of their suitors on paper cards attached to clay balls. Once the balls were thrown into a container of water, we expected to see the first note capable of coming to the surface: it undoubtedly contained the name of the chosen one!
We are really far from that.
Is not that we became less romantic but of course time has changed.
We dedicate songs to our beloved through WhatsApp, women receive bunch of flowers but also men do. Women book the table with the highest view of the city and boys receive gift from their lovers. And singles? They organise huge groups to go for pub and restaurants, drink and enjoy the night, careless, they’re surrounded by couples.
Now Love is more balanced and not only sexist celebration (luckily).
Being a couple now, can also be very expensive, according with the latest marketing laws, but bear in mind that Love is an Universal Law, and can be celebrated in every way and between different people and different religion. Be at home in you want order a gourmet ready meal or celebrate along the street with your spouse. Watch a movie or lay on the bed with her.
Anyway guys, you still love each other that much.
Delita wish you a great Monday’s Valentine’s Day.