Thursday, February 11, 2016

Valentine, The Story

Uhhh, l’amour is in the air my Foxy Ladies and Shiny Knights? Are you ready to spread that love and spend your money on some extra cholesterol, red roses and movie tickets? Ah, you shouldn’t! Love is sweet as it is, you don’t need chocolate to make it better. Throw in a kiss, a kinky text, a surprise coffee waiting for her at the office and you’ll add all the spices that Valentine needs to be special. more special than all the other days.
HAHA! Couldn't help it!
I was thinking more like introducing you to a few facts related to this highly commercialized and celebrated day. We all make a lot fuss about it, but do we actually know how it came to be? Here are some interesting things hiding deep within the history to show you how we ended up loving this one day, more than others.

Valentine is believed to have Roman Roots.

The history of Valentine's Day is obscure, and further clouded by various fanciful legends. The holiday's roots are in the ancient Roman festival of Lupercalia, a fertility celebration commemorated annually on February 15. Pope Gelasius I recast this pagan festival as a Christian feast day circa 496, declaring February 14 to be St. Valentine's Day.

Valentines Galore

Which St. Valentine this early pope intended to honor remains a mystery: according to the Catholic Encyclopedia, there were at least three early Christian saints by that name. One was a priest in Rome, another a bishop in Terni, and of a third St. Valentine almost nothing is known except that he met his end in Africa. Rather astonishingly, all three Valentines were said to have been martyred on February 14.

Most scholars believe that the St. Valentine of the holiday was a priest who attracted the disfavor of Roman emperor Claudius II around 270. At this stage, the factual ends and the mythic begins. According to one legend, Claudius II had prohibited marriage for young men, claiming that bachelors made better soldiers. Valentine continued to secretly perform marriage ceremonies but was eventually apprehended by the Romans and put to death. Another legend has it that Valentine, imprisoned by Claudius, fell in love with the daughter of his jailer. Before he was executed, he allegedly sent her a letter signed "from your Valentine." Probably the most plausible story surrounding St. Valentine is one not focused on Eros (passionate love) but on agape (Christian love): he was martyred for refusing to renounce his religion.

In 1969, the Catholic Church revised its liturgical calendar, removing the feast days of saints whose historical origins were questionable. St. Valentine was one of the casualties.

Chaucer's Love Birds

It was not until the 14th century that this Christian feast day became definitively associated with love. According to UCLA medieval scholar Henry Ansgar Kelly, author of Chaucer and the Cult of Saint Valentine, it was Chaucer who first linked St. Valentine's Day with romance.

In 1381, Chaucer composed a poem in honor of the engagement between England's Richard II and Anne of Bohemia. As was the poetic tradition, Chaucer associated the occasion with a feast day. In "The Parliament of Fowls," the royal engagement, the mating season of birds, and St. Valentine's Day are linked:

For this was on St. Valentine's Day,
When every fowl cometh there to choose his mate.

Tradition of Valentine's Cards

Over the centuries, the holiday evolved, and by the 18th century, gift-giving and exchanging handmade cards on Valentine's Day had become common in England. Hand-made valentine cards made of lace, ribbons, and featuring cupids and hearts eventually spread to the American colonies. The tradition of Valentine's cards did not become widespread in the United States, however, until the 1850s, when Esther A. Howland, a Mount Holyoke graduate and native of Worcester, Mass., began mass-producing them. Today, of course, the holiday has become a booming commercial success. According to the Greeting Card Association, 25% of all cards sent each year are valentines.
To conclude with, here is Valentine in a nutshell for you!
  • ·       The most popular theory about Valentine's Day origin is that Emperor Claudius II didn't want Roman men to marry during wartime. Bishop Valentine went against his wishes and performed secret weddings. For this, Valentine was jailed and executed. While in jail he wrote a note to the jailor's daugter signing it "from your Valentine".
  • ·       In Victorian times it was considered bad luck to sign a Valentine’s Day card.

  • ·       Based on retail statistics, about 3 per cent of pet owners will give Valentine’s Day gifts to their pets.
  • ·   Or you could pop over to Finland where Valentine’s Day is called Ystävänpäivä, which translates into “Friend’s day”. It's more about remembering your buddies than your loved ones.

  • ·      Many believe the X symbol became synonymous with the kiss in medieval times. People who couldn't write their names signed in front of a witness with an X. The X was then kissed to show their sincerity.

  • ·     Girls of medieval times ate bizarre foods on St. Valentine's Day to make them dream of their future spouse.

  • ·   In the Middle Ages, young men and women drew names from a bowl to see who would be their Valentine. They would wear this name pinned onto their sleeves for one week for everyone to see. This was the origin of the expression "to wear your heart on your sleeve."

  • ·    In 1537, England's King Henry VII officially declared Feb. 14 the holiday of St. Valentine's  Day.
  • ·       Physicians of the 1800s commonly advised their patients to eat chocolate to calm their pining for lost love.
  •       Richard Cadbury produced the first box of chocolates for Valentine's Day in the late 1800s.

  • ·       The red rose was the favorite flower of Venus, the Roman goddess of love.

  • ·       Every Valentine's Day, the Italian city of Verona, where Shakespeare's lovers Romeo and Juliet lived, receives about 1,000 letters addressed to Juliet.

Dragobete, the Romanian Way to Love

Having said this, perhaps many of you living abroad do not know that Romanian have their own Day of Love Celebration on February 24, called Dragobete. Like any tradition born in ancient times, this festivity also draws roots from the magical and powerful days of the Gods. (I love Europe for this! Mythology, magic, war and love it’s what makes the old continent a delight of inspiration for me!)

It is believed that Dragobete is a Dacian God, protector of love, joy and fertility, similar to Eros, the Greek God and Cupid. It seems that he is the son of Dochia, a dark spirited woman symbolizing the cold winter in Romanian folklore. That's why we celebrate him in early spring as it is time when birds start looking for a mate. It is believed that birds got engaged then and their nuptial dances probably inspired people who felt that spring time, a time of rebirth for the entire nature, is also the time for young love.

In some parts of Romania, single women used to wake up in the morning to gather the last snow they found to them melt it. The water they got this was  used for beauty treatments during the year but also for love rituals. It was very carefully kept, because it was believed to have magical powers. If they couldn't find any snow, women had to gather dew drops or bring water from clear springs.

Afterwards, the young girls and boys from the village community used to get dressed in their so called “Sunday attire” and meet in the center of the village or in front of the church. From there, they would dance and sing heading towards the forest to look for early snowdrops or other spring flowers which had magical powers and could be sued for love spells. If it was windy or rainy, they used to all meet at at someone's place and play games, tell stories, etc.

At midday, young girls used to start running back home from the forest and, on the way back, the boys would try to catch the one they liked. If they managed to catch her, they could steal a kiss. This kiss in front of the community was the symbol of their engagement and their love. In many cases, these engagements turned out to be strong, binding the young couples for the rest of their lives. This practice was the one which gave birth to a local saying: “Dragobete kisses the girls”, being sung by the boys during the game of catching the girl. 

Dragobete’s Day was very important not only for the young people but also for the entire community. All these superstitions, faithfully respected, were the perfect chance for the villagers to get an idea what weddings would happen later in autumn. The funny thing about this tradition is the fact that even parents were surprised seeing their sons and daughters’ preferences but, as the saying goes: “Love is blind”, you cannot fight the feeling.

Later in the evening people of all ages, single or couples, would participate in a local traditional dance called “hora” to properly celebrate this joyful God of love, Dragobete.

Other customs related to this holiday are that on this day men shouldn’t hurt women, not even argue with them otherwise they would have bad luck through the year. Well, damn. Tradition is tradition and must be respected right gents?

Also, on Dragobete’s Day, one cannot work (the field, do repairs around the house, weave, sew). It was forbidden to sacrifice animals from the homesteads and instead women used to feed them with the best food.

Also, according to the local superstitions, people who would participate in this celebration would be protected against sickness for the entire year.

Unfortunately, all these traditions related to the Romanian genuine love celebration are not very popular among Romanians anymore. And that’s a pity because we’d have so much fun at least “reproducing” some of these customs. At least in the rural areas where the setting really takes you back in time I think following at least partially these traditions, in a decent, less 21st century pornographic sense, would actually be a lovely experience, romantic and genuine. 

Either way. Have fun this Sunday, no matter what you do, no matter whom you do it with (oops! haha). It's all about love. Watch your favorite movie a bazillion times (again!) with popcorn and your pet, go out run with friends then stop and have lunch, sweaty and red in the face from the effort. Take a selfie and be the Valentine picture perfect! haha Go to the theater, laugh at a good comedy and then have a dirty hot chocolate or apple pie downtown. And above all, don't forget to buy a bunch of red thread and attach a little paper heart to it and give it to as many of your friends and family. Because every single day, every single one of them is your Valentine one way or another!


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