Love of Valentine’s

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Every February, throughout the country, candy, flowers, cards and gifts are exchanged between loved ones, all in the name of St. Valentine. The question is: Do we even really know why we are celebrating this “lovers’ day”?

St. Valentine’s Day contains vestiges of both Christian and ancient Roman traditions. The lovers’ holiday traces its roots to an annual Roman festival where men stripped naked, grabbed goat- or dog-skin whips, and spanked young maidens in hopes of increasing their fertility. This annual pagan celebration called Lupercalia, which began February 15, remained wildly popular into the fifth century A.D., at least 150 years after Constantine made Christianity the official religion of the Roman Empire. As Christianity came to dominance in Europe, pagan holidays were frequently renamed for early Christian martyrs, in this case, St. Valentine.

Three different people named St. Valentine exist in the history of the church, and so the accurate Valentine story is not fully known. Supposedly, in the third century A.D., Roman Emperor Claudius II forbade young army men to marry because he believed that single men made better soldiers than those with wives and families. Valentine ignored the ban and performed marriages in secret.

After getting caught and being put in prison, Valentine actually sent the first ‘valentine’ greeting himself. During his imprisonment, Valentine fell in love with a young girl (the jailor’s daughter) who visited him. Before his execution, it is believed that he wrote her a letter, which he signed ‘From your Valentine,’ an expression we still use today.

Valentine was executed on February 14, 270 A.D and became a Patron Saint and spiritual overseer of the annual festival. The festival was intended for young Roman men to offer women they admired, and wished to court, handwritten greetings of affection on February 14. The greeting cards acquired St.Valentine’s name.

Being the most popular symbol for Valentine’s Day, Cupid (of Roman mythology; named Eros in Greek mythology) has always played a role in the celebrations of love and lovers. Cupid and his arrows have become the most popular signs of love, and love is most frequently depicted by two hearts pierced by an arrow, Cupid’s arrow.

Tying both Valentine’s day and the depiction of cupid together, it is apparent that love, the symbols of love, and being in love are priorities for most people. But there is a significant difference between cupid’s love and compassionate, conscious love. Marriage is not based on an aimlessly, “shoot-n-arrow” type of love but rather on a conscious decision based on the love and respect between two people. Rather than marriage just being the thrills and joys of a wedding, it is actually the life between two partners “’til death do they part.”

So, be patient and take your time learning about your partner, learn about each other’s strengths/weaknesses and likes/dislikes, find happiness and satisfaction with one another, and consciously decide and prepare for the life of marriage. And yes, send those notes of love and appreciation – not just once a year, but often.

Alexa Calligas, Graduate Research Assistant

Alabama Community Healthy Marriage Initiative

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