Valentine’s Day has its roots in ancient Rome. During that time, February 14th was a holiday to honor Juno, Queen of the Roman Gods as well as the Goddess of women and marriage. It is also the day in cerca 270 that good St. Valentine “lost his head” for love.
In the time of the Roman Empire the lives of young boys and girls were strictly separate. However, one of the customs was match-making game that took place on February 14, the eve of the festival of Lupercalia. The names of Roman girls were written on slips of paper and placed into jars. Each young man would draw a girl’s name from the jar and would pair up with her for duration of the festival. Sometimes the pairing of the children lasted an entire year, and often, they would fall in love and would later marry.
Under the rule of Emperor Claudius II Rome was involved in many bloody and unpopular campaigns. Claudius the Cruel was having a difficult time getting soldiers to join his military leagues. He believed that the reason was that Roman men did not want to leave their sweethearts or wives. As a result, Claudius canceled all marriages and engagements in Rome (it was a very tough time to be in love). The good Saint Valentine was a priest in Rome in those days and he secretly married couples. For his “crime” he was apprehended and condemned to be beaten to death with clubs and then have his head cut off. He suffered this martyrdom on the 14th day of February, cerca 270. Poor man, he truly did die for love.
The priests of the early Christian Church in Rome endeavored to do away with the pagan element in many traditional feasts by substituting the names of saints for those of the ancient gods. And as the pagan Lupercalia began about the middle of February, the priests chose February 14 as Saint Valentine’s Day for the celebration of this new feast. The tradition of exchanging Valentines has its roots in the name selection of the ancient feast.
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