Wednesday Miscellany: Valentine history

The other day, Mitch and I were trying to explain why Valentine’s Day is not a Jewish holiday. We knew it had something to do with a saint. I thought there was a massacre, though that came later.

Turns out, the Catholic church recognizes three or so Saint Valentines. One such Valentine, a priest, defied an anti-marriage law imposed by the Roman emperor Claudius II, and married lovers anyway. He was executed. Another was killed for helping Christians escape from Roman prisons. One Valentine allegedly fell in love with his jailor’s daughter, and before his death, wrote her a letter, signing it, “from your Valentine.”

The February 14 part came in when the Church decided to coop the Roman Lupercalia Festival, a baudy and raucous rite of spring, and something Church fathers no doubt wanted supressed. Some think the modern Valentine thing took hold during the era of chivalry and courtly love, finally reaching popular expression in 17th-century England.

But the whole thing started with blood and death. Like a lot of holidays.

Perhaps the moral of this story is: Spread love, not mayhem.

So, kiss your pookey.

Some accounts to read:

History Channel

How Stuff Works

Infoplease

Christianity Today

Comments (1) -

June 29. 2007 11:57

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Slingbacks--polka dots cost extra

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