Valentine’s Day, February 14th, is “sweetheart’s day,” when people in love express their affection for each other in merry ways. But in whatever form, the message is the same: “Will you be my Valentine?”
The custom of celebrating St. Valentine’s Day can be traced to those festivals called Lupercalia. There were games and dancing, and then each young man drew from an urn the name of the young maiden who would be his sweetheart for the coming year. February 14th, the Roman date of the festival, thus became a day for young lovers. After the introduction of Christianity, pagan customs were suppressed (or redefined), but the festival continued, and in the seventh century it began to be called St. Valentine’s Day.
The origin of the name remains in doubt. Some historians link it to Valentine, who became the patron saint of lovers after he was imprisoned by the Emperor Claudius for secretly marrying couples contrary to the Emperor’s orders. Others say the name is a corruption of the French word “galantin” (a gallant or beau). And one further theory is that February 14 was chosen because birds traditionally began to mate on that very day.
Whatever the origin, Valentine’s Day has had a long and romantic history. The Roman conquerors carried the celebration to England, where pagan and Christian customs combined to form some of the most enduring traditions. One was that the first person you saw on Valentine’s Day would be your valentine.
St. Valentine’s Day, with all of its colorful lore, was taken to the New World by the English settlers and lost none of its romantic appeal through the journey.
As for myself, instead of “butchering” an innocent Daisy, I would always take my chances with a Valentine.