Sunday, February 14, 2010

Who Was Saint Valentine?

Did you know that Valentine's Day was not originally a Hallmark holiday? (I always thought it was!)

Several weeks ago, in our History curriculum, we learned about the history of Valentine's Day.

Although there are differing accounts, most commonly agreed is that Valentine was a Christian man who lived in or around Rome in the 3rd century.  He was martyred for his faith on February 14, 269 A.D.; possibly because, as a priest, he performed secret, "illegal" Christian marriage ceremonies. (Some historians also say there were two different men named Valentine who both were martyred).

At that time, there was a Roman festival of love and the coming of spring (called Lupercalia) that was held on February 15th.  The feast and festival honored both Juno, the goddess of woman and marriage, and Pan, the god of nature.  Also in this celebration, Cupid (god of love) was believed to be involved in the random pairing of couples from names drawn out of a box.  A shot from one of Cupid's arrows supposedly caused a couple to fall in love.

Almost 200 years later, in 495 A.D., Pope Gelasius decided to declare February 14th as Saint Valentine's Day in an attempt to replace the pagan festival of Lupercalia, and to honor those believers who had died for their faith.  

At some time later in history, it became custom for  people to send cards to those they loved on Valentine's Day.  And then sometime even later, sales and marketing geniuses turned it into the over-hyped, commercial holiday in which everyone feels pressure to impress the one they love with cards, flowers, candy, and even jewelry and diamonds - Saint Valentine, and others who stood up for their faith, long forgotten.

We don't really get into Valentine's Day in our family. But I'll look at Valentine's Day differently from now on - thankful for God's love that has stood the test of time, and overcame all those old, pagan, superstitious holidays and practices.


Mom said...

How wonderful, Chris! Thanx for the history lesson. I knew there was a St. Valentine many, many centuries ago, but I did not know or remember all the rest. You really are a good teacher! :}

Love, Mom XO

Chris said...

Thanks Mom! Class adjourned . . .

Maisy said...

We do get into Valentine's Day here. At least while Owen is young. It's a good lesson for him to "think" about other people and show it. But, you are is far removed from St. Valentine giving his life for his faith. He did, however, at least believe in couples getting married. That's a little love there. lol Enjoyed reading the history of it, Chris. :)