Two Guys, A Blind Girl and Some Goats

The Truth (?) About Valentine's Day


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By Irais Gomez

A lot of us think of romance, chocolate and cutesy stuff when it comes to St. Valentine’s Day. Yet, a little research reveals that the origins of this holiday have almost nothing to do with how we celebrate it now.

According to the Web site catholic.org, Saint Valentine’s story may be the mashup of two different men martyred and buried north of Rome.

Valentine’s Day likely started as a festival of Lupercalis/Luperaclia. They were gods derived from ancient Roman traditions. The festival stretched from February 13th to15th. Offerings were made to the gods so people could earn health and ensure the fertility of their sheep and cows. At times, goats and dogs were sacrificed. During these rituals men would draw women’s name and if it was agreeable they would get married. Later, around the fifth century, Roman Catholic Pope Hillary tried to ban the rituals because it was “unchristian” and because it was a pagan ritual. A celebration evolved to make people forget all about Lupercalis.

So, who was Valentine? Saint Valentine was a priest who held secret marriages for soldiers, a practice banned by Roman Emperor Claudius II. The emperor thought marriage made men weak. Though Roman citizens disliked the ban, only Valentine spoke up against it. Because of his disobedience and his refusal to accept Roman gods, Valentine was thrown in jail.

According to Britannica.com, Valentine’s jailor had a blind daughter. The marrying man helped the sightless girl through his strong faith. Valentine also converted his guard to Christianity. Having enough of Valentine, Claudius II sentenced him to execution.

Before Valentine’s execution, he reportedly asked for a pen and paper and wrote “From your valentine.”

Though hardly greeting card material, the Web site History.com suggests that the holiday may have been “invented” by the English poet Geoffrey Chaucer, best known for writing The Canterbury Tales. In a poem penned around 1375, Chaucer wrote, “For this was sent on Seynt Valentyne’s day / Whan every foul cometh ther to choose his mate.” It was the first time the past made mention of how we view the holiday today.

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