The Secrets of St. Valentine: A History

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The Secrets of St. Valentine: A History

02.14.2013

By Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez / @ZaraAlexis

Amidst the recent commercialism that infiltrates the celebration of what is nowValentine’s Day—the incessant pink hearts, overpriced red roses, decorated boxes of confectionery, and poetic, six-dollar greeting cards, not to mention the severe pressure couples (especially the men) feel in showering their partner with luxurious, yet thoughtful gifts and dates worthy of Olympic applause by Cupid, himself —there is a rich origin in which Valentine’s Day stems from (and I’m referring to more than just roses here).

It is said that the pagan festival known as Lupercalia, which was a fertility festival dedicated to Faunus, the roman god of agriculture in mid-February, was eventually outlawed when Pope Gelasius declared February 14, St. Valentine’s Day.

While the Catholic Church recognizes more than one saint named Valentine or Valentinus, one legend refers to St. Valentine as the priest who defied Emperor Claudius II when he outlawed marriage for young men in his belief that single men made better soldiers.

st valentine

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The priest, Valentine, felt the injustice of such a decree and continued to perform marriage rites between young couples in secret. When discovered, Valentine was executed.

Another story suggests that Valentine was put to death for helping Christians escape the persecution and torture they faced while in Roman prisons. One martyrological story attests that Valentine himself had fallen in love with his jailor’s daughter and had sent her a letter signed, “From your Valentine,” which is a term readily used now to showcase one’s love and affection during Valentine’s Day. There is also the belief that he wasn’t actually in love with his jailor’s daughter, but had healed her through his Christian faith.

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Regardless of the origin of Valentine’s Day, it remains to be deeply embedded in our cultural practice of celebrating and honouring romantic love. And while there seems to also be a backlash found in those who are “anti-Valentine’s Day,” the ardent holiday remains strong and for many couples, a meaningful anniversary to commemorate their mutual passion, tenderness, and loving partnership — as it should.

For those who are not in a romantic relationship right now, “take heart,”—your precious, future partner will find you when you least expect him or her to, and a lot sooner than you might hope.  (When I had personally given up on the possibility of romantic love and partnership ever finding me many years ago, my future husband and I were brought together by the fate of “bad” timing: I was late, while he was early, but together, the irregular timing was what we needed for our “paths to cross.”)

Us, our wedding day, September 14, 2002. (c) Photo Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.
Us, our wedding day, September 14, 2002. (c) Photo Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.

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To couples everywhere, may you and your partner enjoy the ardour of romance today and celebrate the significance of your unique partnership.

And to my bibliotaphe followers, may your love of reading continue to lead you to “bigger” and “better” books!

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Happy Valentine’s Day!

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What’s your personal love story?

What are your plans for Valentine’s Day 2013?

What special gift would you love to receive today in celebration of Valentine’s Day?

What is your favourite love story or romance book?

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