Happy Valentines Day! Please accept my apologies for the choppy presentation today - it's what happens when you record late on little sleep! I still hope you enjoy our episode on St. Valentine though!
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The origin of St. Valentine, and how many St. Valentines there were, remains a mystery. One opinion is that he was a Roman martyred for refusing to give up his Christian faith. Other historians hold that St. Valentine was a temple priest jailed for defiance during the reign of Claudius. This we do know, that whoever he was, Valentine really existed because archaeologists have unearthed a Roman catacomb and an ancient church dedicated to Saint Valentine. In 496 AD Pope Gelasius marked February 14th as a celebration in honor of his martyrdom.
Though his birth date and birthplace are unknown, there is a woodcut portrait of Valentinus, and aside of it text states that Valentinus was a Roman priest martyred during the reign of Claudius the Goth [Claudius II]. Since he was caught marrying Christian couples and aiding any Christians who were being persecuted under Emperor Claudius in Rome [when helping them was considered a crime], Valentinus was arrested and imprisoned. Interestingly, Claudius is said to have taken a liking to this prisoner (much like King Herod took a liking to John the Baptist) -- until Valentinus made a strategic error: he tried to convert the Emperor -- whereupon this priest was condemned to death.
While in jail, allegedly Valentinus did not rest, in fact, being in jail or dead is no excuse for non-performance of the supernatural by a potential future Saint. Accordingly, one legend says, while awaiting his execution, Valentinus restored the sight of his jailer's blind daughter. Another legend says, on the eve of his death, he penned a farewell note to the jailer's daughter, signing it, "From your Valentine." Of course, that would be odd considering his name was Valentinus, but I will say that it was a legend.
The Legenda Aurea does not contain anything about hearts and last notes signed "from your Valentine", as is sometimes suggested in modern works of sentimental piety . Many of the current legends surrounding them appear in the late Middle Ages in France and England, when the feast day of February 14 became associated with romantic love.
A Little bit about Valentine's Day
In ancient Rome, February was the official beginning of spring and was considered a time for purification. Houses were ritually cleansed by sweeping them out and then sprinkling salt and a type of wheat called spelt throughout their interiors. Lupercalia, which began at the ides of February, February 15, was a fertility festival dedicated to Faunus, the Roman god of agriculture, as well as to the Roman founders Romulus and Remus.
In Great Britain, Valentine's Day began to be popularly celebrated around the seventeenth century. By the middle of the eighteenth century, it was common for friends and lovers in all social classes to exchange small tokens of affection or handwritten notes. By the end of the century, printed cards began to replace written letters due to improvements in printing technology. Ready-made cards were an easy way for people to express their emotions in a time when direct expression of one's feelings was discouraged. Cheaper postage rates also contributed to an increase in the popularity of sending Valentine's Day greetings. Americans probably began exchanging hand-made valentines in the early 1700s. In the 1840s, Esther A. Howland began to sell the first mass-produced valentines in America.
According to the Greeting Card Association, an estimated one billion valentine cards are sent each year, making Valentine's Day the second largest card-sending holiday of the year. (An estimated 2.6 billion cards are sent for Christmas.) Approximately 85 percent of all valentines are purchased by women. In addition to the United States, Valentine's Day is celebrated in Canada, Mexico, the United Kingdom, France, and Australia.