A Bit of Fun, Before We StartCredit: Amazon
The popular, 21st century, American conception of Valentine’s Day holds that February 14th and its rituals are the preeminent forum for declaring, enumerating and, indeed, proving one’s amorous intentions for another. In this highly commercialized culture, these affections are generally proven through the purchase of inordinate amounts of chocolates, flowers, teddy bears and other frivolities.
While many eschew the modern celebratory trappings of St. Valentine’s Day, most gifts are welcomed by their recipients and, indeed, significant favors are returned. In almost all instances, it is a day to be enjoyed by everyone.
Love knows no bounds and certainly does not respect the time of year. Thankfully, it is universal and ever present. Despite these seeming constraints, February 14th has evolved into the day to proclaim your everlasting love for someone.
Credit: akira yamadaDespite the evident joy that this situation brings to chocolatiers and stuffed animal vendors, one wonders how such an integral aspect of human interaction, LOVE, came to be concentrated around such a certain date.
Perhaps, there is a reason for the importance of February 14th and Saint Valentine; one centered on ancient beliefs and rituals. The question will probably remain unanswered but, here are some interesting questions and, unfortunately, only partial answers, to this altogether sublime mystery:
- Saint Valentine, the man, is often considered an amalgamation or rehash of various Roman gods. What pagan holiday is generally considered the precursor to Saint Valentines’ Day?
- Roses are the preferred flower on Valentine’s Day. According to Roman legend, from whence do Rose’s spring?
- Historically speaking, who was the real Saint Valentine as depicted in Christian Canon?
- Though William Shakespeare was evidently quite partial to the amorous feelings exhibited on Saint Valentine’s Day – he wrote Sonnet 18, after all - the Bard only mentions the Valentine’s Day holiday, specifically, in one play. Which one?
- How many Valentine’s Day cards are sent each year?
...and Now the Questions with the Answers
1. Saint Valentine, the man, is often considered an amalgamation or rehash of various Roman gods. What pagan holiday is generally considered the precursor to Saint Valentines’ Day?
Credit: Public DomainThe feast of Lupercalia is as ancient as it gets and, by most historians’ estimates, predates the founding of Rome, itself. The early Romans appropriated it and their version celebrated it to celebrate a festival in honor of the wolves that suckled the founders of their city, Romulus and Remus. Eventually, the 6th century, Christian Church co-opted the day in honor of the Feast of the Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The day would subsequently be passed on down through the succeeding centuries as Saint Valentine’s Day.
In one of history’s more delicious ironies, the original feast, Lupercalia, was one of sexual license. Then, the feast day commemorated courtly love and abstention and has now has come full circle towards commercialization and licentiousness.
2. Roses are the preferred flower on Valentine’s Day. According to Roman legend, from whence do Rose’s spring?
Credit: AramissabekyanThe rose is one of the most ubiquitous flowers in the canon of Western art and culture. So beautiful is its countenance that it has been used on more than one occasion to define a royal family but, more significantly, it has become known as a symbol of the undying love and affection of one person for another. Though seemingly common, the origins of this remarkable flower are steeped in mythos and tradition.
While a seeming mainstay of Christian mores, the mythic origin of the rose is more interestingly, derived from a cryptic Roman legend. According to an ancient legend, the food and drink of the gods, Nectar and Ambrosia, were solely created in a special place. Each would then be transported to Olympus by a specially designated god. In the case of Nectar, Cupid was chosen to bring the gift but, on its journey, the little god spilt his charge and where the nectar fell, roses bloomed. An apt analogy for anyone interested in St. Valentine’s Day..
3. Historically speaking, who was the real Saint Valentine as depicted in Christian Canon?
Credit: Public DomainThere are three purported versions of St. Valentine and many would have that the resultant saint is an amalgamation of the three. One died in Africa and the other two possibilities were martyred on the Via Flaminia, a road from Rome to Remini. This author cannot reconcile this assertion with the facts. Instead, a truer story will be told.
One of the consistent stories that surround this remarkable man, St. Valentine, is that he persisted in marrying the faithful against the proscription of the Roman authorities. A remarkable act when the penalty was death. Still, despite performing hundreds if not thousands of marriages, he was never executed until he publicly implored the Roman Emperor, Claudius II, to convert to Christianity. On the night before he died, he sent a card to the daughter of his jailer signed ‘from your Valentine.”
4. Though William Shakespeare was evidently quite partial to the amorous feelings exhibited on Saint Valentine’s Day – he wrote Sonnet 18, after all - the Bard only mentions the Valentine’s Day holiday, specifically, in one play. Which one?
Of course, it is from THE play. In Hamlet, Ophelia sings,
"Good morrow! 'Tis St. Valentine's Day; All in the morning betime; And I a maid at your window,; To be your Valentine!"
Not the most exact rhyme but we do forgive our betters from time to time. By the way, Sonnet 18 is the one that starts,
“Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate.”
5. How many Valentine’s Day cards are sent each year?
Over 1 billion. The advent of the mechanically produced card in 1900 has created a worldwide phenomenon that saw over 1 billion cards exchanged in countries such as the U.S., Canada, Mexico, Greta Britain, Australia and France. Perhaps, most remarkable, almost 85% of the cards are purchased by women. I suppose that men concentrate on flowers, chocolates, diamonds earrings and the like, instead.