By CHRISTINA WEBER
Special to the CN
Ahh ... Valentine’s Day is upon us, a day when lovers swoon, florists are running and single people all over the world cringe.
Today, Valentine’s Day, is all about showing affection for the love in your life by sending flowers, giving jewelry or taking them out for a nice dinner. But the original meaning of the day was actually quite different and had nothing to do with romance at all. In 496 AD Pope Gelasius I established a day honoring the two Christian martyrs, Valentine of Rome and Valentine of Terni. Both had died more than a hundred years before, defending their faith and beliefs.
Roman history states that in 260 AD, Claudius the Great was having trouble finding men to serve in his army. He blamed the lack of volunteers on marriage, which he said made men weak. So to correct this, he simply banned marriage. However, the temple priest Valentinus was quite the romantic and wed couples in secret. Soon he was caught and jailed, and when he pressed his luck further by trying to convert the emperor over to Christianity, he was beaten and stoned. On the eve of his beheading, from the confines of his cell, he was said to have sent a farewell letter to his love, the jailer’s daughter, signing it “From your Valentine.” Thus sending out the world’s first “Valentine Card.”
Many scholars believe that the holiday became more about love than martyrdom because of the pagan festival of Lupercalia. A holiday that celebrated fertility and provided them with protection from wolves that existed long before Valentine’s Day and was celebrated. It was held from Feb. 13-15. Part of this festival’s tradition was for the men to draw the names of the town women out of a basket to determine who they were to be with for the following year.
And where did the chubby, half-naked baby come from in this celebration? Well, to the Greeks, he was known as Eros, the son of Aphrodite who was the Goddess of beauty and love. To the Romans, he was Cupid, the son of Venus, and was described as happy but cruel. He had a mortal wife, Psyche, and law said that mortals were not supposed to look upon gods. So he was only with her under cover of darkness. But as with most women, curiosity got the most of her and one night as he was sleeping, she lit a lamp and looked at him. He work and fled in anger ... guess the whole chubby baby look did not set well with him.
Today it is said that he carries a bow and arrow, and with one shot makes couples fall in love.
Despite all the history of the holiday, many of us simply know this as a gift-giving holiday. For years, the traditional gift to give your love was a simple handmade card. Even today, the oldest surviving greeting card on record is a Valentine’s Day card from the 1400s which is on display in a Britain Museum.
While the tradition of giving these delights from the heart goes back at least another 200 years, it was not until the 1980s that the diamond industry began using Valentine’s Day as a marketing campaign to get people to spend more money, it must have worked because today men spend a record twice more money than women.
So however you decide to spend this holiday, do it with someone you love.
But remember it was not always about chocolate, flowers and gifts.