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Front Page » February 10, 2011 » Focus » Valentine's Day
Published 1,261 days ago

Valentine's Day


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It has often been said that the Spring is when a young man's fancy turns to love. However the most romantic day of the year seems to fall in the middle of the winter, Valentines Day. How did this happen?

The fact is no one seems to really know. The legends that surround the hearted holiday, are long, convoluted and mysterious.

Most people know that the actual name of the holiday is St. Valentines Day, so they believe it was named after a saint in the Catholic church. However today, the Catholic Church recognizes at least three different saints named Valentine, but which one was the day named after. No one knows for sure.

And what about all the stuff that goes on during that day. The secret cards that show up, the chocolates on the doorstep and the notes from secret admirers?

For some reason, despite the frigid and often wet weather, February has long been a month steeped in romance. The holiday, which in non-leap years falls directly in the middle of the month contains traditions that include Christian, Roman and pre-Christian practices.

The legends as to the start of the holiday abound. One legend contends that Valentine was a priest who served during the third century in Rome. When Emperor Claudius II decided that single men made better soldiers than those with wives and families, he outlawed marriage for young men, who were his potential soldiers. Valentine, realizing the injustice of the decree, defied Claudius and continued to perform marriages for young lovers in secret. When Valentine's actions were discovered, Claudius ordered that he be put to death.

Other stories suggest that Valentine may have been killed for attempting to help Christians escape harsh Roman prisons where they were often beaten and tortured.

While Valentine was in prison awaiting his fate, he came in contact with his jailer, Asterius. The jailer had a blind daughter. Asterius requested him to heal his daughter. Through his faith he miraculously restored the sight of Asterius' daughter. Just before his execution, he asked for a pen and paper from his jailer, and signed a farewell message to her "From Your Valentine," a phrase that lived ever after.

Valentine thus become a Patron Saint, and spiritual overseer of an annual festival. The festival involved young Romans offering women they admired, and wished to court, handwritten greetings of affection on February 14. The greeting cards acquired St.Valentine's name.

The Valentine's Day card spread with Christianity, and is now celebrated all over the world. One of the earliest card was sent in 1415 by Charles, duke of Orleans, to his wife while he was a prisoner in the Tower of London. The card is now preserved in the British Museum.

Although the truth behind the Valentine legend is to a certain extent murky, the stories certainly emphasize his appeal as a sympathetic, heroic, and, most importantly, romantic figure. It's no surprise that by the Middle Ages, Valentine was one of the most popular saints in England and France.

Perhaps no one will ever know the true identity and story behind the man named St. Valentine but February has been the month to celebrate love for a long time, dating clear back to the Middle Ages. In fact, Valentines ranks second only to Christmas in number of greeting cards sent in the world.

There are also other vestiges of Valentines people know little about. Cupid is a good example. In Roman mythology Cupid is the son of Venus, goddess of love. His counterpart in Greek mythology is Eros, god of love. Cupid is often said to be a mischievous boy who goes around wounding both gods and humans with his arrows, causing them to fall in love.

As early as the fourth century B.C., the Romans engaged in an annual young man's rite to passage to the God Lupercus. The names of the teenage women were placed in a box and drawn at random by adolescent men; thus, a man was assigned a woman companion for the duration of the year, after which another lottery was staged. After eight hundred years of this cruel practice, the early church fathers sought to end this tradition.

They found an answer in the Roman priest Valentine who had been executed hundreds of years before.

Did You Know?

Many early Christian martyrs were named Valentine, which can make it confusing when trying to figure out just who is being honored on Valentine's Day. While there might be many martyrs named Valentine, the two honored on Valentine's Day are Valentine of Rome and Valentine of Terni. The former was a Roman priest who was martyred in roughly 269 AD, while the latter was bishop of what is now Terni who was martyred in 197 AD. It was not until the 14th century that any of today's popular romantic elements began to take shape when celebrating Valentine's Day. As a result of those new developments, the distinctions between Valentine of Rome and Valentine of Terni were gradually lost, eventually prompting the feast of St. Valentine on February 14 to be removed from the General Roman Calendar in 1969.

today's popular romantic elements began to take shape when celebrating Valentine's Day. As a result of those new developments, the distinctions between Valentine of Rome and Valentine of Terni were gradually lost, eventually prompting the feast of St. Valentine on February 14 to be removed from the General Roman Calendar in 1969.

Valentine's Day Movie Guide

No holiday is more synonymous with romance than Valentine's Day. Every February 14 couples express their feelings for one another with candies, flowers and a host of other romantic traditions.

For couples who want to cozy up on the couch this Valentine's Day, the following movies make ideal choices to set a romantic mood.

* Casablanca (1942) -- Perhaps no movie of the 20th century is more fitting for Valentine's Day than this Humphrey Bogart classic. In the midst of World War II, world-weary nightclub owner Rick Blaine (Bogart) finds himself in the middle of a love triangle with his ex-lover (Ingrid Bergman) and her husband (Paul Heinreid) in French-occupied Morocco.

* Out of Africa (1985) -- A seven-time Oscar winner, including Best Picture, this acclaimed film tells the tale of a largely abandoned young wife (Meryl Streep) who falls in love with a free-spirited big-game hunter (Robert Redford) in 20th century colonial Kenya.

* From Here to Eternity (1953) -- Another classic, this features the immortal scene of Burt Lancaster and Deborah Kerr passionately kissing in the sand as the waves crash over them.

* Roman Holiday (1953) -- Princess Ann (Audrey Hepburn) is bored and manages to escape her entourage of guardians while visiting Rome. There she meets American journalist Joe Bradley (Gregory Peck), whose goal of an exclusive interview soon becomes a romantic adventure for both.

* The Princess Bride (1987) -- Couples who like some laughs with their romance will appreciate this Rob Reiner fairy tale with a comedic twist. Buttercup (Robin Wright) is beautiful but doomed, chosen to marry an evil prince (Chris Sarandon). But a smitten stable boy (Cary Elwes) returns from sea to rescue his beloved. A nearly instant classic, the film features hilarious performances from the likes of Billy Crystal, Mandy Patinkin and the late pro wrestler Andre the Giant.

* Out of Sight (1998) -- Behind the star power of Jennifer Lopez and George Clooney, this offbeat romance is tailor-made for couples who prefer a little adventure with their romance. After a federal marshal (Lopez) finds herself locked in the trunk of a car with a charming escaped convict (Clooney), an unlikely romance soon develops in this film based on an Elmore Leonard novel.

Hit By Cupid's Arrow

Cupid is a symbol of Valentine's Day, but many do not know how this winged matchmaker came to be associated with the holiday.

Do you believe in love at first sight? How many friends or relatives have said they met their dream guy or gal by a chance encounter of eyes meeting across the room? Perhaps Cupid played a role --shooting his arrow and finding a target.

Cupid is represented in several ways. But the best-known image of Cupid is a winged, naked boy shooting arrows to join potential lovers together. Cupid has two types of arrows he can set sail. Gold-tipped arrows are what links people in love. However, Cupid also has a devious side. He can fire lead-tipped arrows, which cause people to feel hatred. This side of Cupid is little-known.

Cupid is the son of Venus in Roman mythology. Greek myths called him Eros, and he was the son of Aphrodite. Stories say that Venus, the goddess of love and beauty became jealous with a mortal woman named Psyche. She ordered her son to punish the mortal. However, Cupid became enamored with Psyche and married her instead. But being a mortal, Psyche was not able to look at her husband. She resisted until one day her sisters persuaded her to look at him, wondering why he'd want to hide himself from her. Upon doing so, Cupid punished Psyche by leaving her and making all of their belongings vanish.

Psyche wandered looking for her lost love. She eventually came upon the temple of Venus and wanted to plead her case and apologize. However, Venus was still jealous of Psyche. Venus ordered her to complete dangerous tasks to try and win back Cupid, in an effort to destory the mortal.

In one of her tasks -- a visit to Pluto in the underworld -- Psyche failed and fell under a deadly slumber. Cupid was beside himself, found Psyche and rescued her. Both Cupid and Venus forgave Psyche.

Eventually the rest of the gods -- moved by Psyche's devotion -- made her a goddess.

Today Cupid is the mascot of Valentine's Day. His mischievous or devious nature is downplayed, and he is best known as an adorable matchmaker with heart-tipped arrows.

You can evoke Cupid this Valentine's Day by drawing arrow-pierced hearts on steamed-up mirrors in the bathroom for your mate to discover.

Or send Valentines with hearts and arrows as the theme.

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