A Valentine history lesson

Published 3:39 pm Thursday, February 12, 2004

By Staff
Chuck Bodiford Publisher
Not to long ago I had the pleasure of listening to Andy Andrews deliver a keynote speech. In this speech, he addressed himself as an anthropologist of history. I had never thought of it before, but that would be a great description of me. I can sit hours upon end watching the History or Discovery channel. I find it fascinating to know what makes people tick, what events occurring in history have molded us into the people we are today, and why we do the things we do. I would take the description of an anthropologist of history one step further saying that I am connoisseur of culture, and Andy is more than welcome to use that description, it if he so chooses.
I would like to share with you the origin of Valentine's Day. Varying opinions exist concerning the actual origin, but most of the stories include the same subjects or themes, which are Lupercalia, Christianity, Claudius the Cruel, and a man by the name of Valentine.
The stories date back to ancient Rome when, February the 15th began the Feast of Lupercalia. On the eve of this feast, a boy would reach into a box or jar and pull out the name of girl. They would then join each other for the rest of the festival, and sometimes this paring lead to marriage. During this time the emperor of Rome was named Claudius II and was involved with many violent war campaigns. These campaigns resulted in him gaining the moniker of Claudius the Cruel. He had trouble getting the soldiers to join his military and fight for his cause. He believed this problem was a result of the men not wanting to leave their love interest or families. To resolve this Claudius the Cruel cancelled all engagements and marriages in Rome.
However, love's champion, a priest by the name of Valentine would not stand for this injustice. Secretly he would marry young couples who wanted to be wed. After this was later discovered, Valentine was killed.
Valentine became a martyr on February the 14, for his deeds. Later in an attempt to do away with the pagan elements involved with many of these ritualistic feasts, the Christian church in Rome began to substitute the name of saints with those of maidens. It appears that the pastors of the church chose Saint Valentine for the celebration of this new feast to replace Lupercalia.
There are other ideas as to how Valentine became associated with the holiday. Some stories suggest that Valentine was jailed for helping Christians. During his time in jail, he supposedly cured the daughter of a jailer of blindness. Claudius became enraged and had Valentine beheaded on February 14. Other stories suggest that while in prison, Valentine fell in love with a jailer's daughter and signed his love letters, "from your Valentine." I myself and can't say for sure what story or portion of these stories are true, but in an attempt to keep love alive will try to do my part. By no means can I marry anyone and I am further away from saintlyhood than I would like to be, but consider this my arrow going out to the masses. If you haven't got that someone special anything yet, don't fret there is still time, you have a little more than three days, counting today. So get out there, do a little shopping, and try to have the greatest weekend ever.
Chuck Bodiford is Publisher of the Advance. He may be reached by calling 368-2123 or by email at chuck.bodiford@atmoreadvance.com

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