Monday, July 09, 2007

Love is in the year

February 14th is a day that you either love or loath because lovers all over the world exchange cards, flowers and gifts. But have you ever thought where the tradition comes from - here is a brief history of St Valentine's Day so you can find out! Eight hundred years before the first Valentine's Day, the Romans practised a festival celebrating sexual pleasure and fertility. Observing a young man's rite of passage, a girl's name would be randomly drawn and the pair would be partners for the year. In 496 AD Pope Gelasius decided he didn't like this practise and allowed both men and women to draw the name of a Saint from a box, which they had to follow for the rest of the year.

The decision was unpopular, forcing Pope Gelasius to come up with a patron saint of love – which is where Valentine comes in. Emperor Claudius II (known as Claudius the Cruel) believed that married men made bad soldiers because they didn't want to leave their wives, so Claudius prohibited all marriages in the Empire. Valentine, a Christian Priest, secretly married young couples, leading to his inevitable imprisonment and eventual death in 270 AD. While incarcerated it is believed that Valentine fell in love with the jailer's blind daughter, and her sight was miraculously restored through his love for her and his strong faith.

Before he was stoned to death and beheaded, he wrote her a note, signed ‘from your Valentine', a phrase used today by millions of people across the world to send an anonymous card to their lover. The Roman men accepted this, and the tradition became to send a handwritten message of affection, containing Valentine's name, to your loved one on February 14th, the day Valentine was killed. Not quite as passionate as the pagan festival, but very romantic. If you're after someone's amorous attention you'd better get scribbling now – you don't want to miss out!

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