can’t see the forest

Happy (or S.A.D.) Valentine’s

Posted in History, holidays, Valentine's Day by Curtis on 2/14/07

Mostly from Wikipedia, I culled the following information about the origin and history of St. Valentine’s Day. Eros Guides Psyche

Valentine’s Day, an annual celebration of both courtly love and platonic friendship generally observed on February 14, is a European tradition which can be traced back to classical Greece and Rome, and perhaps even a bit further. It was most likely brought to America by British immigrants in the 18th and 19th Centuries. In recent years, Valentine’s Day has sometimes been referred to as “Singles Awareness Day” (S.A.D.) How’s that for politically correct?

In ancient Greece, the period between mid-January and mid-February was called Gamelion and was dedicated to the celebration of the sacred marriage between Zeus and Hera, king and queen of the Greek pantheon of deities. February 15 marked the feast of Lupercalia in Rome. This word is derived from the Latin lupus, meaning “wolf,” which may connote a reference to the wolf which was said to have nursed Romulus and Remus, legendary founders of Rome. This pagan tradition persisted through the early Christian era, with Pope Gelasius I declaring in 496 CE that St. Valentine’s Day would fall on February 14.

There were two Christian martyrs named Valentine, and very little is known about either of them. It is said that one of the canonized Valentines was executed after refusing to deny Christ before the Roman Emperor Claudius circa 280 CE.

The first recorded association between Valentine’s Day and romantic love in the English tradition comes from Geoffrey Chaucer, who wrote in 1382’s Parlement of Foules:

For this was on seynt Volantynys day
Whan euery byrd comyth there to chese his make.

Valentine’s Day is not without its dark side. On that day in 1349, approximately 2,000 Jews were burned to death in Strasbourg. This was during the Black Plague, when, tragically, it was commonly believed that the presence and tolerance of Jews in Europe was the catalyst for a divine punishment in the form of the bubonic plague.

Western influence in Japan has made Valentine’s Day a celebrated holiday there, in which women present giri-choko (‘obligation chocolates’) to favorite men. The men are expected to return the favor on March 14, “White Day.”

Brazil celebrates the ‘Day of the Enamored’ on June 12. This is the eve of St. Anthony’s Day, and St. Anthony is the patron saint of marriage.

In Finland, Valentine’s Day is known as Ystävänpäivä [OO-stah-vahn-pah-ee-vah], or ‘Friends’ Day,’ and this holiday has a significance which is more platonic than erotic.


One Response

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  1. peoplesgeography said, on 2/14/07 at 8:02 am

    The Finns have a great tradition, good to see agape properly recognized on the love spectrum. Enjoy your Valentine’s Day. From Buddha: “You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection.”

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