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Wednesday, February 14, 2001 A Publication of the Newspeak Association Volume No. 66, Issue 5

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-Valentine's Day Traditions Continue Despite Mysterious Origins

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Valentine's Day Traditions Continue Despite Mysterious Origins


by Catherine Raposa
Features Editor

Each February 14th, Americans expose their romantic sides in order to capture the interest and heart of a loved one. Every year, American greeting card companies create more than $277 million worth of Valentines. There were 25,617 florists nationwide to help both men and women select the right flowers to send to loved ones this year. And lastly, perhaps to help substantiate the rumored uneven ratio on campus, the U.S. Census Bureau reports that in 1998, there were 114 unmarried men to every 100 unmarried women in the 18 to 44 age categories. These statistics may not prove to what extent lovers seek to please their mate, but nevertheless there is little question that Valentine's Day is steeped in centuries of tradition and culture that persist to this very day.

The true nature and past of Valentine's Day is mysterious and not well understood. Many details of the history's origin are missing. Incomplete history makes both the date and Saint Valentine's life a puzzle.

Two spring Roman holidays might have marked the original selection of February 14. On February 14, Romans celebrated a festival in the name of Juno, the Roman goddess of women and marriage that focused on young women and motherhood. On February 15, a Roman holiday named Lupercalia or Februarca celebrated Lycaeus, mother of Romulus and Remus, founders of Rome. Sacrifices of wolves were thought to improve the fertility of village women for the upcoming year and wolf fur was worn to improve the chances of pregnancy. Young Roman men would randomly select the names of local women from jars and escort them to the festivity's dances and dinners. It was believed that if the escort was successful then the young woman would make an excellent and fertile wife. This random love-match may have lead to the custom of 'selecting' a Valentine for the holiday.

Saint Valentine himself is an unknown and confusing figure, even to Catholic Church scholars. Three separate martyrs are recognized with the name Valentine or Valentinus. Legends centering on these figures contain a common theme of defiance for the sake of love.

The first legend states the Saint continued to perform marriages despite a Roman Emperor's ruling that men remain single. The Emperor was concerned with the dwindling military enlistment and determined that limiting family life and ultimately marriage would encourage men to join the infantry and train as better soldiers. Valentine continued to perform Christian marriages despite the strict rules on matrimony, and was ultimately imprisoned. Emperor Claudius II had him put to death on February 14 in 269 A.D. Allegedly, Pope Gelasius declared February 14 as a special holiday for Saint Valentine in 469 A.D.

The second legend states that Valentine died while helping save faithful Christians from Roman prisons. In the era when Christians were persecuted for their religious beliefs, Valentine would arrange escapes from Roman prisons to prevent the faithful from being tortured or beaten.

Perhaps the most popular legend centers on an imprisoned priest during the Dark Ages. Local children missed him during his imprisonment and would throw flowers into his cell through the prison bars. He fell in love with the Jailer's daughter, who visited often during his confinement. Some sources state that she returned his love because he had cured her blindness. He would send her love letters frequently as a means of communicating his love. Right before he died, he wrote her a love letter signing it, "From Your Valentine".

These tales have persisted over hundreds of years. Saint Valentine was a popular character in Middle Age stories, especially in the countries of France and England. Valentine's Day is one of several holidays that was allegedly integrated into the Christian calendar in order to encourage pagans to convert to Catholicism. By keeping the Roman date but by changing its religious significance the romantic qualities of the holiday were preserved while dismissing the sacrifice rituals.

Although the story behind Saint Valentine is unclear, many of the symbols of Valentine's Day are better understood as universal signs of love. Symbols of Valentine's Day include doves, hearts, roses, and Cupid. Doves are magical messengers that bring good luck and fortune. Hearts have traditionally been thought to contain the soul and the emotional center of the human body. They represent love, passion, and desire. Roses are one of the most popular gifts for Valentine's Day but the significance of the flower's color denotes how serious the gift is. Red roses represent love and passion, white true love, yellow indicates friendship, and black means farewell. Lastly, Cupid, son of Venus or Aphrodite in ancient mythology, would play matchmaker to Roman and Greek mortals. His angelic and innocent physique transcends pagan myths and he continues to shoot lovers with his arrows, especially on this special day of the year.


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